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Report: Armon Gates leaving Florida’s staff for Nebraska weeks after hiring

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A strange story, this is.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Second Round-Texas Tech vs. Florida Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

When the Florida Gators nabbed assistant Armon Gates from Northwestern in early April, it was painted as a coup.

Less than a full month later, Gates is reportedly no longer with the Gators — and the circumstances of his departure are strange, to say the least.

Per Chicago-area hoops writer Joe Henricksen in the Chicago Sun-Times, Gates is joining the staff at Nebraska after being cut loose by the Gators, and that is reportedly due to the “fickle” nature of Florida head coach Mike White.

Florida and head coach Mike White was a big enough draw for Gates to leave Evanston. Anyone really locked in with the college basketball world and with in-depth knowledge how the coaching ladder works understood the move. This was a tremendous opportunity to spread his basketball coaching wings, with a title next to his name and for a connected head coach of a top 25 program.

But soon after taking the Florida job, where White immediately named Gates his associate head coach, is when things changed. Within just a couple of weeks the well respected Gates hit a speed bump in his career, and it’s an example of how challenging, perplexing, fickle and cutthroat the college coaching world can be.

According to multiple sources, White began feeling uncomfortable with the overall dynamic and makeup of the staff he put together. The head coach is the boss and usually has unyielding power in the program he runs. Thus, White made the move he felt was necessary for himself and the program, no matter the odd timing of it or the repercussions.

This fickle decision-making, however, was going to leave immediate and unnecessary uncertainty for an assistant coach who turned down other job offers, was in the midst of moving his family and leaving a great job for, in the end … What?

Though no fault of his own, Gates was blindsided and unnecessarily left high and dry due to the cutthroat life in college basketball coaching. Some could say that’s how this basketball coaching world works.

This, to be charitable, sounds a lot like Henricksen talking to Gates — a Chicago native who played at Kent State with Florida assistant Jordan Mincy — or sources close and sympathetic to him and getting one side of the story. But if the gist of it is true, and if White indeed felt differently about Gates after his hiring and/or sensed some sort of challenge to the “unyielding power” of a head coach — that phrase, more than any other, really makes it seem unlikely that White was contacted for the story — then it’s almost certainly going to be a problem for Florida to deal with going forward.

And at minimum, Gates reportedly departing Florida for Nebraska, a program that has never won an NCAA Tournament game, is an oddity that is also at odds with the way Gates’s hiring was celebrated.

“We conducted an extensive national search, and Armon kept coming back atop my list,” White said. “UF certainly gets the attention of coaches around the country, so we went through a thorough process, and he was my ultimate target.

”Armon, like Jordan Mincy and Darris Nichols, is a rising star in this industry,” White continued. “He brings infectious energy and has won everywhere he’s been. He has worked with and for some really great coaches and is a proven recruiter, and he will be a fantastic fit for our culture. His breadth of knowledge and experiences will benefit the Florida program in all facets.”

Proclaiming that a hire “will be a fantastic fit for our culture” and then having that person part company with your organization within a month is the sort of thing that merits further examination.

It’s possible that Henricksen did that examination, and came back with an unflattering truth about White. It’s also possible — and, I think, more likely — that there was some sort of personality conflict that flared up post-hiring and led to a parting of ways. And if the latter is the case, whatever conflict there was is probably something that should’ve been sussed out during a vetting of Gates.

I’ve reached out to Florida for comment on this report, and will update if I hear anything official in response. (I doubt I will.)

In any case, it would appear that White and the Gators are now back in the same spot they were in after Florida Atlantic’s hiring of Dusty May: Looking for a third assistant, and lacking in obvious candidates for the role.