Dan White Talks About His Return to Pierson, and What He Learned at East Hampton - 27 East

Dan White Talks About His Return to Pierson, and What He Learned at East Hampton

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Dan White coaching the Bonackers back in 2017.   MICHAEL HELLER

Dan White coaching the Bonackers back in 2017. MICHAEL HELLER

authorCailin Riley on Nov 21, 2023

When Dan White began coaching the Pierson boys basketball team in 2009, he wasn’t much older than the student-athletes themselves. At the age of just 23, he was bright-eyed and full of enthusiasm for the sport, but didn’t realize at the time just how much he still had to learn.

Seven seasons with the Bonackers taught him that.

After eight successful years coaching at Pierson, White made the move to East Hampton, taking over for Billy McKee in 2017 after he retired.

Going from coaching a small, Class C school to leading a Class A team where every game was a battle was a struggle at first, White admitted. But it was also a valuable learning experience.

Seven years after heading east to lead the Bonackers, White is now back in Sag Harbor, returning once again to the role of head coach of the Pierson Whalers. When former Pierson coach Will Fujita announced that he’d be headed back to his alma mater, Southold, after leading the Whalers to the New York State Final Four last year, Pierson Middle High School Principal Brittany Carriero and Pierson Athletic Director Brian Tardif reached out to White, asking him if he’d come back.

White said yes for several reasons, but the main factor was quality of life. White and his wife live in North Sea and have two young children, and the daily commute to teach at Pierson, then head farther east to coach, and then make the long trek back home to Southampton — even longer when the team had road games far up the island — had started to take its toll, and the job at Pierson held appeal from a personal standpoint.

While White felt bad about leaving the program and especially the seniors he’d coached for several years, he was also comforted in the fact that McKee had agreed to come out of retirement and coach the team, knowing it would be in good hands.

White spoke earlier this week about how it feels to be back at Pierson, and what he has learned during his time away.

“You can’t hide from anybody in those leagues,” White said of the competition he faced while coaching East Hampton, a Class A school. “You have to be able to coach multiple ways at any given point.”

He learned right away at East Hampton that he couldn’t simply repeat what he’d done during his early days in Sag Harbor, when there were always a few automatic wins on the schedule.

“I was stuck in my ways at Pierson,” he said. “[At East Hampton] I learned how to just be better, and more importantly not do what I’ve always learned. I learned from other coaches in those leagues, just watching film and seeing, they do this and I don’t do that and it cost us. I recognized that I wasn’t as good of a coach as I thought I was.”

White said he was getting “outcoached on a daily basis” during his first two years at East Hampton, but he found his footing before long. Last season, the Bonackers went 15-2, 16-4 overall and won the League V regular season title. They had a first round bye in the Class A playoffs and then lost a nailbiter to Amityville that White said is still painful to talk about.

That’s in the past now, and White is excited for the future at Pierson, a school that has a proud basketball tradition that he hopes to keep thriving. He gave credit to his predecessor, Fujita, and said he’s ready to keep up that winning tradition.

“I think Will did a spectacular job, not only with the varsity kids but with the youth program,” he said, also giving credit to several parents in the community who are a big part of the Sag Harbor Youth Hoop program. “It’s pretty clear that this is a school that loves hoops, and that’s a great place to start. There will be some things early on we’ll need to work on, since Will and I do things differently, but it will be an easy transition because I have all these kids in class, so they know who I am.”

White said he’s also happy that Pierson is now a Class B school, meaning it will face strong competition from squads like Mattituck, Babylon and Port Jefferson, and will also play strong Class A schools within its league like perennial powerhouse Southampton, Bayport/Blue Point and Shoreham/Wading River.

“This will be good for everybody,” he said. “I don’t see us going undefeated, but I also don’t see us getting blown out. Our games will be close, competitive and entertaining.”

The Whalers will kick off the season with a nonleague home game against Smithtown Christian on December 1 at 6:45 p.m.

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