White appreciates Donovan's straightforward coaching style originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
Billy Donovan has never been afraid to levy a direct challenge, and Coby White has never been afraid to accept one.
That dynamic is culminating in a productive relationship between head coach and starting point guard, White said after snapping out of a mild slump by posting 18 points, 8 assists and canning three 3-pointers in a 123-110 win over the Charlotte Hornets.
"He challenges you anywhere, any moment. He’s going to say whatever," White said. "But you can’t ask for anything better. For me, I don’t like being sugar coated. He keeps it real. He just tells you the truth."
From film sessions to media Zooms, Donovan has indeed shot straight in demanding more from his players. After blowout losses, ugly wins, or even victories that remind of what this team -- and its principals -- could accomplish with an increased level of consistency.
"Everybody on the team respects that," White said. "We understand. He wants to be a winner. He wants us to be a winner. And he knows what it takes to be a winner because he’s won in this league. That’s what I mean by we all buy in. He’s a straight-up dude, and I’ve got a lot of respect for him just because of that."
White's 180-degree adjustment from spark plug, off-the-ball bench scorer to starting point guard has had its share of ups and downs. No longer are his buckets the only ones that matter. Organizing the offense, setting the table for teammates and defending the game's elite ball-handlers are all top-of-mind tasks.
In turn, there have been scoreless, 0-for-5 shooting nights. There have also been 36-point, 7-assist explosions. Donovan is urging White to find balance, as he did Friday, when Donovan lauded his defensive effort level, floor-reading ability and willingness to get downhill into the teeth of the defense as a mode to create for himself and others. A "good mixture," in the coach's words.
“I think as a point guard, he has to keep growing in the fact that -- it’s hard, so much of guys’ identity is their ability to put the ball in the basket," Donovan said. "But I think he’s got to learn, when that shot’s not going, he’s too gifted. He can do other things to help. He can defend. He get in there and help rebound. He can start the break. He can get into the teeth of the defense. He can get fouled. He can make an extra pass. There’s a lot he can do. And we need him to do it."
Such a direct leadership style has always resonated with White. At North Carolina, specifically, he said head coach Roy Williams would challenge him "every day." He relishes being thrown into the fire.
"Yeah, for sure," he said when asked if he's enjoying his responsibilities this season better than last. "Because this is the goal for me, to be able to lead a team in the NBA.
"He’s (Donovan) patient with me, but he’s also challenging me each and every day to get better, and he believes that I can be a really good player. I’m going to take on that challenge. I’m going to keep growing, keep maintaining. I know it’s going to be ups and downs, it’s going to be bumps in the road, but as long as I keep growing and keep going upward that’s all I can ask for."
In that vein, White said his solace is being better today than he was after the first game of the season. And the Bulls, sitting at 7-8 and in the midst of both a three-game winning streak, are as self-assured as they've been in years.
"Our confidence is really high," White said. "We’re all bought in this year. We all believe in each other. We all love playing with each other. I feel like we’re just growing."