After 33 years, crew legend shows no signs of stopping

Crew coach Gavin White shares a life-long connection to Temple.

Gavin White concludes his 33rd season as the crew team’s head coach. He doesn’t have any plans of retiring anytime soon. | ABI REIMOLD / TTN FILE PHOTO
Gavin White concludes his 33rd season as the crew team’s head coach. He doesn’t have any plans of retiring anytime soon. | ABI REIMOLD / TTN FILE PHOTO

Gavin White has been affiliated with Temple in some way his entire life.

He’s currently in the midst of his 33rd year as coach of the crew team. White’s father Gavin White, Jr., was just finishing up a Temple football career at the time he was born. Shortly after, his father became the Temple Athletic Director. White attended Temple from 1969-1973 and was a member of the crew team his final three years. He took over as head coach in 1979 and never looked back. Aside from leading Temple to seven appearances in the Royal Henley Regatta and 20 Dad Vail Regatta Varsity 8 titles, White also taught undergraduate Physical Education until his recent retirement from the classroom.

White’s track record has not gone unrecognized. He gained international merit when he was asked to coach the men’s four at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, and again in 2003 when he coached the men’s pair with coxswain to the gold medal at the FISA World Rowing Championships in Milan, Italy. White is a 1985 inductee into the Temple Athletic Hall of Fame. More recently, he was the recipient of the 2009 Lifetime Achievement Award at the 17th Annual Joy of Sculling Conference.

The Temple News: Did you ever imagine you would be at Temple for so long?

Gavin White: Hell no. I went away from Temple for two years to get my master’s at the University of Maryland. I came back to teach at Temple and they said, ‘Hey we need someone to coach [crew].’ I told them that I would give it a try and the rest is history.

TTN: Did you have any background in crew before coming to Temple?

GW: No, not at all. I played basketball at Temple my freshman year. I played football and basketball in high school. My friend from day camp from when I was 12 years old told me to try out [for crew] in college, so I did. I didn’t have any background at all. My father was a football player, all my uncles were basketball and football players. There was no connection at all whatsoever. But as you can tell, it stuck.

TTN: Was there ever a point in your career where you thought you might leave Temple?

GW: There have been a couple of people who approached me over the years. Purdue approached me before when their [crew] coach was leaving. They said they would offer me a lot of money to come out there, and a lot of perks. But word on the street is I was born into the Temple family. My mom was pregnant with me while she was going to Temple football games every weekend watching my dad play. I was born in January that year, he graduated in May. Temple is in my blood I guess you could say. There’s no way I was ever going to go anywhere else.

TTN: [Senior] Chris Roberts said he’s in the best shape of his life thanks to you. Is your workout regiment something you pride yourself on?

GW: That’s the main component of my system, is the workouts. I mean, I don’t do too much with technique. I’m not a technician. The main thing I like doing is the workout scheduling, trying to peak guys at the right time. We have a luxury here with being on the water, where I’ve been working with them the last three weeks. Some of the other schools we compete against are just getting into form. [Roberts] is one of those kids that has come a long way. He had a lot of injuries his first three years. We used to kid him that some part of his body would fall off in the water every time he raced.

TTN: Was balancing teaching, coaching and a personal life ever a difficult task for you?

GW: Frankly, I don’t know how I did it. I woke up every morning, did our morning workout, [taught] all day at school, while coming back in the afternoon sometime for a second workout. Now that I’m just coaching and not teaching, I realize that was wearing me out.

TTN: If you had to put a timetable on how much longer you’ll be coaching, what would you say?

GW: Well if you talk to the opposing coaches they’ll always tell you, ‘This is Gavin’s last year.’ And that’s been going on for the last 20 years. I haven’t set a date to retire. It could be this year, it could be the next. I don’t feel like I need to win any more titles. I’m not anxious to do it for me, I just don’t like walking away from these kids. Having this group of kids is special.

Tyler Sablich can be reached at or on Twitter @TySablich.

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