June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Former SAC football coach Anthony White remembered for his impact on so many

Athletic Director Mary Hegarty talks about former football coach Anthony White Thursday. (Photos: Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone).

Former Santa Ana College football coach Anthony White made a big impact on those he coached and worked with over the years.

On Thursday, the players, coaches and school officials who were so positively affected gave thanks to White, who died on Friday, Nov. 24 at the age of 42 after battle with cancer, during a celebration of life at the Bill Cook Gymnasium on the Santa Ana College campus.

With his determination and positive attitude, White, after taking a brief break from coaching following a highly-successful stint as Buena Park High School head football coach, was able to bring stability and success to the program.

“He was obviously a great coach but the kind of man he was, every encounter you had with him was impactful or fun or you learned something or you solved something, but he always added to every room he was in,” Athletic Director Mary Hegarty said in an interview after the ceremony.

To see additional photos, click on the first picture:

Pictures of White along with plaques of the many coaching honors he received during his career were displayed in the front where Hegarty spoke.

Hegarty opened the tribute with comments, then invited anyone who wished to reflect upon White to share their comments to share them. Many who coached with White and played with him shared their stories.

“He left a huge impact on this college and my family,” said Santa Ana College assistant coach Geoff Jones.

“He made a big impression on everybody he knew,” Hegarty told those in attendance, who were seated in chairs on the gymnasium floor and in the bleachers.

Hegarty also thanked White’s wife, Sam, for “sharing Anthony with us all these years.”

A former Buena Park player who played for White emphasized how White helped him grow as a player and person and led the way for him during some challenging times.

The common theme among speakers was that White cared so much about those he came in contact with and was determined to help them grow as people and players. As a coach, he was tough because he cared about his players.

The sentiment was also evident among players, who shared their thoughts about the former Dons’ coach in interviews with OC Sports Zone after the event.

Evin Douglas, a guard, said Coach White was a “good, good guy who coached hard. He gave us everything he got. He was definitely motivational and made everyone tough.”

Douglas recalled one day at practice when he wasn’t playing that well and Coach White got on him about a missed assignment in an attempt to inspire him.

“He walked up to me and said, ‘I shouldn’t have to yell at you and get in your face for you to be great.’ I’ve been thinking about that a lot, to give it everything I got and don’t leave anything behind. We went 9-2 and won a bowl game.”

Another SAC player, Iskandar Albitar, an offensive lineman, said that “every time he would talk to me, he would be straight up. He was a great coach, but he was even a greater man. He would always come to you and look you in the eyes and tell you the truth right away and I feel that’s why I have so much respect for him. That’s why I feel he was so special, that he was able to do what a lot of people are not able to do any more.”

The players dedicated the season for White and acheved their goal with a victory in the bowl game.

“We had to do it for him, that’s the least we could do,” Albitar said. “When he showed up for practice, practice was going to be done the way he wanted it to.”

Devin Douglas (the twin brother of Evin) said of the coach’s death, “it still doesn’t feel real. Honestly, I really thought he was going to get through it.

“If we didn’t go full speed he would start yelling at us. Coach White knew how to push buttons, to be honest. He knew the right thing to say to get you fired up.”

Among White’s former teammates at University of Utah who attended was Marina football coach Charlie TeGantvoort, former head coach at Santa Ana High School.

Hegarty, in the interview, noted that White took over the program during a challenging time when SAC and other programs were dealing with the pandemic.

“Coming out of COVID, and our rosters had been a little lower the last couple years even before COVID, and he came in and he received the message, he knew the mission and during COVID, he took over officially as the head coach in about June and he started with about 120 or 140 guys and just brought these guys in and people got enthusiastic about coming to Santa Ana College and he just immediately made an impact and people wanted to be around him and wanted to play for him,” she said.

White had a number of characteristics that made him successful as a football coach.

“First of all, he was a brilliant football mind, but he’s also a very organized leader and football, I always say I think that’s the hardest program to be a head coach of, you’ve got more staff of any other program and hundreds of guys. It takes a lot of organization and great communication and you have to be able to be in a room with a lot of guys and reach every one of those guys and Anthony had all of that. His impact was felt immediately and constantly,” Hegarty said.

One of White’s goals was to have a turf field for the Dons to practice on campus and perhaps eventually having a stadium for home games.

“Dr. (Annebelle, the president) Nery has been an amazing supporter of athletics and she on her own is coming up with a plan to fund-raise for this field and Anthony was fired up turfing the field with the idea that eventually we would play our home games here. As we work through that process, Anthony’s imprint and footprint will be all over that and I hope we will be able to honor him as we move through that,” Hegarty said.

“There’s nothing more he wanted more was to be here and he was super proud of being at Santa Ana College and everything he did honored this place and all of us.”

No timetable is yet established for the turf field, Hegarty said. The Dons current home is Santa Ana Stadium and the Dons are committed to playing there next season.

Hegarty encouraged those in attendance to help the in a GoFundMe drive to help with costs of college for the White’s children, Anthony White II and Olivia Grace.

No replacement has been made yet for White, Hegarty said.

Those attending the event enjoyed food and refreshments and shared stories among themselves before the ceremony started as Christmas music was played.

Santa Ana College’s football team finished this past season with nine wins, the most since 2010, according to school officials.

In 2021, White’s first season at SAC, Santa Ana College (7-4) won the American Division/Metro League title for the first time since 2017, and for only the second time in 22 years.

White was honored as Coach of the Year by the Southern California Football Association.

Without White coaching on the sidelines in the final game of this season, Santa Ana’s football team defeated College of the Desert 56-49 Sunday, Nov. 19 in the So Cal Bowl for their first bowl game win since 2012.

—Tim Burt, OC Sports Zone; timburt@ocsportszone.com