Doug White is 63 years old, meaning he found his teens in the ’60s and a common culture associated with it.
Expression. Defiance. And, for sure, intense partying.
“Easy to do,” he says, slumping on a couch recently in an almost archaic office overseeing the basketball court at Corcoran High. “That is what I was told we were supposed to do – and we did it.”
Specifically? “That time for me was kind of wasted. I was a victim of the ’60s. I pushed the boundaries to the limit, but there were also boundaries I wasn’t going to cross. My mom (Norma) and dad (Bill) were active in the church, and that always kind of drew me back; kept me out of trouble.
“A little bit.”
Remarkably, evolving from a 15-year ditch-digger to educator, he would ultimately value every minute as a girls basketball coach at his alma mater.
Further, he would drop his shovel as a sod-buster for longtime Corcoran farm-giant J. G. Boswell Company to become the winningest girls basketball coach in the history of the Central Section.
“No,” defends four-year varsity veteran Elena Munoz, whose Panthers delivered White’s section record-breaking 447th win with a 42-30 East Sequoia League win at home against Woodlake on Thursday. “For two or three hours in practice, we go all into it, to the last second, going and going.
447 Career wins for Corcoran coach Doug White
“It’s just an honor to play for him. He believes in me more than I believe in myself, that’s for sure. He’s all about heart, and he’ll never give up on you.”
Most important, in a 22-year coaching career that has also produced a record 10 section titles and a second-best 15 league championships in girls basketball, according to historian Bob Barnett, White didn’t give up on himself, and he could have.
Surely, it appeared that he would.
But then it happened, at about 28 years old, he estimates: “Literally, as a lake bottom flow carries to its lowest level, I was digging ditches. And, one day, I had an epiphany. Sounds kind of corny, but I had an epiphany. I was always at a very high reading level, even in elementary school. And that’s the thing that saved me. I wasn’t going to end up digging ditches the rest of my life.
“I decided to go back to school that day.”
He would continue to plow soil among three jobs to finance his college education, first at College of the Sequoias on weekends, then to Fresno State, where he majored in history and social science and earned his teaching credential.
I put on that whistle, and I knew where I was supposed to be.
Doug White, Corcoran girls basketball coach
In the late ’80s, nearly 20 years after he graduated from high school, he was hired first as B team boys basketball coach and then teacher at John Muir Middle School on Letts Avenue in Corcoran.
“I put on that whistle and I knew where I was supposed to be.”
Since, he has remained in Room E4 at John Muir, teaching English, Reading and Social Studies.
The man who played not one minute of organized basketball in his youth took over the high school’s girls varsity in the 1994-95 season, won four consecutive section Division IV championships and a legendary career had been launched.
But, ultimately, there would be thorns succeeding roses in the past six years, a contentious battle with section administration in regard to its competitive equity playoff policy, divorce, loss of a father and health issues frightfully ongoing with a mother to this day.
“Very tumultuous period,” he says. “My marriage fell apart. The ground kind of went out from under me and my spirit was broken.”
Yet, it would be one Douglas Lynn White who would endure to be a record-breaker in the most improbable of circumstances.
And he’s not walking away today or next season: “Still on one leg.”
Punished for excellence? Operating from a foundation mentored by the late Corcoran youth coach Al Davenport as “just throw the ball out there and run the hell out of them,” White, from the starting line, has been bent on “out-working” the others year-round.
Financing off-season camps with fundraisers among “working class” Corcoran, including his own pocket, he won his last section title in 2010 at Selland Arena, which had become a finals time share in downtown Fresno for the Panthers.
10 Record Central Section championships earned by Doug White’s Corcoran teams
Then, as sucked into a controversial administrative vacuum of the Central Section – one of 10 in the California Interscholastic Federation, but an aggressor in this model – Corcoran was elevated to D-III in a postseason competitive equity format based on recent performance as opposed to enrollment.
The Panthers, with 850 students, have been no section title threat since, going 1-4 in playoffs, including two losses to North Yosemite League’s Hoover and its 1,850 enrollment. Corcoran was returned to D-IV this season.
White, in a blanket statement fired toward the section suits and not anyone Corcoran has opposed in playoffs since the alleged endorsement, says: “I don’t think they’re particularly bad people; I think they are particularly misguided in their efforts to make things easier on certain program’s lack of work. They’re penalizing work, and I think that’s a cultural phenomenon that’s nationwide.”
That said, White collects himself: “For all my shortcomings, I am not a bitter person. I have even come to terms with the decision of the CIF to move us up to Division III. That caught me at a time when the ground had momentarily disappeared beneath my feet because of my divorce. My reaction was to whine and complain when I should have been living out the mantra of our program, which was ‘Rise Above.’ ”
Gearing his teams toward the postseason, White has routinely hardened his nonleague schedule by playing Clovis schools from the Tri-River Athletic Conference – even mighty Clovis West – to D-I power Hanford of the West Yosemite League and Centennial of the Southwest Yosemite.
Meaning: That 447-win record could be – should be, fairly – substantially swelled with a schedule likened to his school’s genre.
But he’ll continue to plow onward, with a young (six sophomores) and small team, in an East Sequoia League schedule pointed next at Strathmore on Tuesday.
This is unlikely a team destined for Selland Arena, but no matter in the fable of coach Doug White.
At small schools, you don’t have that many numbers to start with, and to hold onto them is difficult with the changing way of social media and to keep kids interested. It’s pretty cool for Doug to have kept that stability in a small town. He has a program; he was always there.
Gary Blate, Yosemite girls basketball coach
“It’s impressive for Doug to coach successfully for so long with people coming and going,” says Yosemite coach Gary Blake, who has fought a similar section competitive equity challenge as White with the Badgers. “He takes it seriously.
“At small schools, you don’t have that many numbers to start with, and to hold onto them is difficult with the changing way of social media and to keep kids interested. It’s pretty cool for Doug to have kept that stability in a small town. He has a program; he was always there.”
And it’s there, in a Kings County community more identified with a state prison than a high school girls basketball team.
“I try to emphasize to our coaches Doug’s method,” Corcoran athletics director Robert Lerma says. “He’s definitely hands-on and he builds relationships that go far beyond basketball. We have women of the community who played for Coach White, are productive and still come out to support him 20 years after the fact.
“This is what we strive to do.”