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New coach Antoine White looks to build on success of Mount St. Mary’s women’s basketball: ‘It’s time to get back to work’

Mount St. Mary’s announced Tuesday that Antoine White has been promoted to head coach of the women’s basketball program.
Mount St. Mary’s announced Tuesday that Antoine White has been promoted to head coach of the women’s basketball program. (Ryan Murray)

The Mount St. Mary’s women’s basketball program waited 26 years to return to the NCAA tournament last month. New coach Antoine White said he would like the timetable for another appearance to be much shorter.

“We want to win, so it’s right away,” he said Tuesday morning of prioritizing another trip to the NCAA postseason. “I’m very fortunate. I have a really talented group of players. So I’m very lucky to start my head coaching career with this group. The relationship that I have with these players, I know their games very well, and I’ve spent a lot of time with them in the gym. So I know what they do really well, and I know the areas they need to work on to improve.”

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That will be the charge for White, who was introduced as the seventh head coach in program history. The 32-year-old associate head coach since the summer of 2019 was promoted March 31 after head coach Maria Marchesano left the Mountaineers for the same position at Purdue Fort Wayne.

White opened his introduction by thanking Marchesano for retaining him on her staff when she succeeded Bryan Whitten.

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“None of this is possible without Maria,” he said before joking that he wears a size large if she is interested in sending any Mastodons apparel. “She allowed me to have great influence over our program in the last few years, and that influence has helped me develop as a coach and shaped me to be ready for this leadership role. Lots of credit to her for being selfless, believing in my abilities. I’ve got nothing but love and respect for you, Coach.”

White, who began his career at Mount St. Mary’s in 2016 as a coaching intern, said he has desired to be a head coach since he was 21 when he started coaching youth basketball in Bethesda. But he gravitated toward the women’s side after a mentor, Walt Whitman High School varsity girls basketball coach Pete Kenah, allowed him to coach a spring league team.

“I just fell in love with it,” White said. “Just the passion that the players [had] at that time that I was coaching, they had so much passion toward the game, and I just continued to work on the women’s side, and the more I did, just the more that I fell in love with it.”

White’s roots in basketball run deep. After graduating from Whitman, he played for Mountaineers men’s head coach Dan Engelstad at Southern Vermont College, where White set a school record for career assists with 242 in 59 games. White helped the program win an Eastern College Athletic Conference championship in 2015 and a New England Collegiate Conference title the following season.

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White, who had coordinated the team’s defense and scouted opponents during Marchesano’s tenure, knows it will be difficult to escape the comparisons to his predecessor. Under Marchesano, Mount St. Mary’s compiled a 61-54 overall record in four years, qualified for the Northeast Conference tournament in 2018-19, and won 20 games in 2019-20 for the first time in 20 seasons.

Maryland forward Alaysia Styles (5) fights for a rebound with Mount St. Mary's guard Bridget Birkhead (11), center Rebecca Lee (34) and guard Kendall Bresee, right, during the second half of a college basketball game in the first round of the women's NCAA tournament at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Monday, March 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Maryland forward Alaysia Styles (5) fights for a rebound with Mount St. Mary's guard Bridget Birkhead (11), center Rebecca Lee (34) and guard Kendall Bresee, right, during the second half of a college basketball game in the first round of the women's NCAA tournament at the Alamodome in San Antonio, Monday, March 22, 2021. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Eric Gay)

This past winter, the program went 17-7 overall and 14-4 in the league and captured its first regular-season crown since 2001 and first tournament championship since 1995. Marchesano was named the conference’s Coach of the Year, and the Mountaineers were the No. 15 seed in the NCAA tournament where they lost, 98-45, to No. 2 seed Maryland in the first round on March 22.

“With me sitting in this new chair, I understand the expectations that come with it,” White said. “But I do my homework, I clock in early, I leave late, I’m a student of the game. So me sitting in this chair doesn’t change too much for me. I’m going to continue to do what I’ve been doing to get me to this spot right here.”

White said the one of the first things the team must realize is that its most recent achievements are a thing of the past.

“We have to come in here, and we can’t feel like we’re entitled to anything, that people are going to give us anything,” he said. “What we accomplished this last season, we’re all very happy about, but it’s time to move on. It’s time to move on, and it’s time to get back to work and set some new goals for ourselves and challenge this group in different ways.”

White said assistant coaches Julie Kaufman and Kelsey Funderburgh will remain on the staff, which has two more openings to fill. Senior center Rebecca Lee, a Severn resident and Old Mill graduate who earned Most Valuable Player honors at last month’s Northeast Conference tournament, and senior shooting guard Bridget Birkhead will transfer and play elsewhere, but redshirt senior shooting guards Kendall Bresee, the league’s Player and Defensive Player of the Year, and Kayla Agentowicz will return next season.

White said he also expects a rising sophomore class and an incoming freshman group to fortify the roster and push the veterans for playing time. He said he plans to meet with individual players on Friday, but will hold off on a team-wide meeting until he can finalize his coaching staff.

White’s adjustment to the head coaching position has been aided by his familiarity with the players.

“The relationship is there,” he said. “I know them extremely well, and they know me very well. They know my coaching style, which I think is so important moving forward. But I know their games. I’ve worked out with them, I’ve helped them develop. Credit to them because they put in the work, but that definitely has made this transition easier for me because we had that relationship.”

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