Derek White was introduced Thursday morning as Presbyterian Christian’s new head football coach. White, 35, replaces Joey Hawkins, who announced last month his plans to retire from coaching.
White comes to Hattiesburg from Columbia, South Carolina, where he was the head coach at Ben Lippen School the previous four seasons. In 2016, he led the Falcons to a state championship. Now, the Greer, SC native hopes to bring PCS its first in the not too distant future.
“PCS is a special place. We just want to continue [that],” White said. “I’ve done my research and my due diligence. Coach [Joey] Hawkins took over a program that was not very good. Coach Hawkins built a great foundation for this program. Whenever you take over for somebody who is a Mississippi legend, you want to be better.
“Whatever we do, we want to be better. I think we owe it to Coach Hawkins, the school and ourselves. We want to take the next step, we want to be better.”
White began his coaching career in 2006 as a graduate assistant at Vanderbilt University. In 2007, he went to Christ Church Episcopal School in Greenville, SC where he worked himself up from assistant coach to defensive coordinator to associate head coach from 2011-2014. During those three years, his teams won 41 straight games and three state championships.
In 2014, White accepted the head coaching position at Ben Lippen School where former PCS secondary principal, Chip Jones, was headmaster.
In his years of coaching, White has received numerous recommendations from Division I football coaches, including Clemson’s Dabo Swinney, according to a press release.
All told, White says the new challenge will not bring a new philosophy.
“It’s really tough to build and win a state championship, and I’ve been lucky enough to win eight of them,” White said. “You’re not always the best team. I feel like I had my best team ever last year, and we underachieved. I told our kids, every one I’ve won and been a part of, what’s so special about that is your culture and the kids. I’m going to ask our kids every day what their job is. It’s to love each other.
“Love is the most powerful thing in the world. If I can get these kids to love each other and play for each other and for our culture to be where we want it to be, you’re absolutely right. A state championship is on the cusp.”
PCS headmaster Allen Smithers says over 30 candidates showed interest in the vacancy, and that just last week, their list was trimmed to four names. In the end, all signs pointed to White and his head coaching experience, which was essentially a must, said Smithers.
White met with players and parents Thursday morning prior to the school’s press conference. Though there were a lot of questions, White says it was a productive meeting.
“Any time you have a coaching transition, we’ve got a couple of seniors that want to know what’s going on and where things are headed. I told our kids, I’m no guru. I think there are no gurus. I’ve met with the gurus, and they say there are no gurus. So I know I’m not. I told them, ‘My job is to do the best thing for you’. Every kid’s got a dream, whether it’s to play, be on the team, be All-State or play at the next level. My job is to get them to their dream, and that’s what I want to do.
“I’m excited and ready to get to work.”