June 15, 2024

OC Sports Zone: Community First

Tributes pour in from football community after death of SAC head coach Anthony White

Anthony White takes the field with his SAC players in 2021. (Photo: Fernando M. Donado, For OC Sports Zone).

Popular and highly-successful Santa Ana College football coach Anthony White, who coached at Buena Park High School before joining the community college ranks, died after a battle with cancer, school officials announced Friday, Nov. 24 in a statement.

“We are deeply saddened to announce the passing of head football coach Anthony White after a courageous battle with cancer,” the statement read. “In just three years, Anthony has left an indelible mark on Santa Ana College Athletics and everyone who was blessed to know him. Our hearts and prayers are with the White family and all the student athletes and colleagues he so positively impacted over the years.”

White, who was 42, is credited with rebuilding the Santa Ana College program in his short term at the school. SAC finished this 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.

Many tributes have been coming in from high school coaches who coached against White, a highly-successful coach at Buena Park High School before moving on to Santa Ana College.

“Coach White had a profound impact on the programs he led,” said Portola Coach Peter Abe. “I can remember his time and successes at Buena Park High School and most recently at Santa Ana College.

“His presence, passion and spirit was immediately and always felt, which helped to spark, change and build culture in those organizations. There was always such a palpable pride in/from those in his programs and surrounding communities. He strived to create a place of belonging and family for student athletes from all walks of life and always put players in positions to excel both on and off the field.

“His teams were always well coached and fun to watch. He was a leader of men and and great model and mentor for today’s youth and future leaders of tomorrow. Much admiration and respect for Coach White and condolences to his family.”

“We have lost a great man with the passing of Coach Anthony White,” added Marina Coach Charlie TeGantvoort. “He was one of my first teammates at the University of Utah to make me feel welcomed. He was a friend and inspiration to so many. Anthony was a great teammate, friend, mentor, coach, colleague, husband and father. He will be truly missed.”

SAC players learned of White’s passing on Friday.

“He was a good dude, a good father, good coach, good mentor, he ran a really good program,” SAC quarterback Beck Moss, former QB at Irvine High School said in an interview with OC Sports Zone Friday. “I wasn’t the closest player to him, there are other guys on the team who had a much closer relationship to him because he was a defensive coach so I didn’t interact with him as much as some of the other guys did.

“But I knew he was a good dad, I knew his son Anthony White Jr. He was an honorary captain for the bowl game and I walked out with him, so I’m just praying for his family right now. It’s a real bummer.”

White had been battling the illness most of the season.

“He came to a couple practices during the summer when his doctor allowed him but for most of the season, we didn’t really see him, we just got updates from other coaches on how he was doing,” Moss said.

Moss said a number of Santa Ana College players went to visit Coach White in the hospital last week.

“A good portion of the team went to the hospital and we presented him with the Don of the Year Award, it’s kind of the award to the persons who has fought through the most and that exemplifies most what a Santa Ana Don is, it was really special and cool to give that award to him and good to go see him, because we hadn’t seen him in a while.”

The Dons took the field with extra emotion for their bowl game, said Moss, who had four TD passes in the game.

“We absolutely were,” Moss said. “Part way through the season we got Anthony White stickers for the back of our helmets. We were all playing hard and trying to win it for him. I’m glad we could do that for him and his son.”

“I am deeply saddened,” added OC Sports Zone writer Tom Connolly, who covered some of the SAC games. “He told me his goal was to be a head high school football coach by the age of 30 and a college head football coach by the age of 40. He accomplished both goals. He was pleasant to speak with win, lose or draw. He was a true gentleman and the game will miss him as well as the media that worked with him.”

No plans for services have been announced.

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