The Cleburne ISD board at a special called meeting on Sunday named Kurt White as the new head boys basketball coach.
White, 54, has spent the previous six seasons at Monahans High School where he turned a struggling program into a perennial playoff contender.
White, who has compiled a career record of 540-297, led Monahans to the playoffs in four of his six seasons with the Loboes, including being named the Texas Association of Basketball Coaches 2013 Coach of the Year for Class 3A.
White takes over as the Yellow Jackets’ head coach following Ed King’s one-year tenure last season. White is the seventh different head coach for Cleburne in the past eight years, but White said he hopes to put an end to that trend.
“I hope this is my last move ever,” White said. “I want to be a part of the community. My wife is looking forward to that. I’m very close to both of my sons, one who is fixing to have a baby. We’re looking forward to that and excited about [the move]. I plan on being here a while.
“I’ve had some people tell me the instability in the program has hurt these guys. Well, yeah — that’s natural. So maybe I can put some stability in it and maybe we’ll have a good program. That’s what the plan is.”
White, who has 30 years of coaching experience, has specific experience in turning struggling or unstable programs in to winners, including at Monahans.
“We turned their program around there,” he said. “About four years ago, we won our first playoff game there in 34 years. Last year, we finished 27-7 and reached the regional quarterfinals. We had a knee injury to one of our starters in the last game of district and still won three playoff games. We had a good run at Monahans. Won a lot of ball games and got that town, which was predominantly a football town, thinking basketball. That was a big step.”
Prior to Monahans, White spent 10 seasons at Wimberley High School where he had a very successful run. Under White, Wimberley was a state-ranked program every season and made the playoffs nine years, including a 62-game winning streak in district play.
Before his decade-long tenure at Wimberley, White was at Liberty Hill for three seasons and was previously at Class 1A Robert Lee, where he led the team to the state tournament in 1995.
The appeal of coming to Cleburne was facing the challenge of bringing stability back to the program while also reintroducing a winning culture.
“As I told them in the interview, it was interesting to me the challenge of the fact that they’ve had so many coaches and it just seemed like a good fit for me,” he said. “It seems like every job I’ve taken has been a job where I’ve had to come in and revitalize a program. I enjoy that. I enjoy the fact that people say ‘They’re down or you can’t win.’ They told me at Monahans, ‘You can’t win here. This is a football town.’ And then I built that program up. I just like doing things like that. I like the challenge of it. I think this is a much better basketball job than people think.”
White said one of the first things he will do when he meets his players is talk about the recent coaching carousel.
“How has some of that instability going to affect us,” he said. “That’s the first thing I’m going to attack. We’re going to get stable here. This is how we’re going to do things. I think you’ve got to address it with the kids. It’s been said in newspapers. It’s been said on every coaching site that I read, ‘Six coaches in seven years, how can this be a good job?’ I think every job is a good job for someone, and I think this job is a good one for me. I think we can be successful.”
Cleburne Athletic Director Pam Lea said White was the right man for the job for several reasons.
“He has been at schools where he’s taken kids very similar to the makeup of our kids, and he’s turned them into a highly successful program,” Lea said. “We felt like with that previous experience that he could do the same thing with our Cleburne kids. That made him a very attractive candidate to us.
“Another thing — I called a friend of mine in Monahans that I worked with in Fort Worth, and, this blew me away, he said when they introduced Coach White at the games, the student body starts chanting his name. So if the kids like him that well, that tells you he was doing a lot of things right.”
Cleburne hasn’t made the postseason since 2009 — the year after Jeff Cody retired. White said he hopes to end that streak real soon.
“I think there’s good kids coming with some of the younger classes,” White said. “I think Coach King did an excellent job last year developing some players. ... I’m excited about being able to build on what he did. And plus, the legacy of Coach Cody and what he’s done here over the years. When he was coaching, I remember hearing the name of Cleburne, so I know the tradition is here, and that’s something even more to build on.”
White said coaching is something he absolutely loves and is something that is in his blood.
“My whole family coaches,” he said. “Both of my sons coach. My brother was a coach. My sister was a coach. That’s all we’ve ever known is staying in the coaching realm. My father is 80 and he is still coaching. He retired then picked it up again at a private school in San Angelo.”
White has been married to his wife, Kim, for more than 30 years and they have twin sons and a daughter. White graduated from Crane High School and attended Angelo State University.
White was introduced to several Cleburne basketball players and other members of the community Monday night at a meet and greet at Jeff D. Cody Gymnasium.
This was part one of a two-part story on the hiring of Kurt White as the Yellow Jackets’ basketball coach. Read part two in Wednesday’s edition of the Times-Review.