Brothers in arms
White twins help forge identity for Dyersburg as coaches
Robert and George White are a lot alike.
Both are ultra competitive and not afraid of any kind of challenge.
And Robert and George, who have coached the Dyersburg State Community College (Tennessee) baseball team together for 15 years, have shared identical coaching philosophies in helping the Eagles reach the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series for the first time.
All of those similarities shy away from the most obvious similarity of all: they’re identical twins.
Looking alike is the least important thing to the White brothers when it comes to coaching the Eagles, though it does provide some comical moments for players who aren’t very familiar with them.
“It’s really not that big of a deal to them. It really isn’t,” Eagles assistant coach J.T, Taylor said. “I’ve known them for 13 years, so they could have their back turned and I’d know which one is which. Some of the newer guys, though, they’ll get pretty confused from time to time.”
Robert is the head coach and George, the older brother by one minute, was his younger brother’s primary assistant for 11 seasons. George stepped away to be the school’s head softball coach but comes back to help his brother whenever the Eagles make a deep postseason run.
Having the two brothers together has been helpful, especially when their players have had disagreements with one coach or the other.
“You’ve got ‘Good cop, bad cop,’ here,” Robert said. “In the past when players don’t like what it is (George) has said, they’ll usually come running to me. At that point, they can pretty instantly tell us apart.”
The White brothers, now 41 years old, grew up on the baseball diamond together before their gig at Dyersburg, playing junior college baseball at Mineral Area College in Missouri. Robert later wound up at Dyersburg after a four-year coaching stint at Harris Stowe State University, an NAIA school in St. Louis, where he led the team to a program-best 36 wins in his final season. George followed to Dyersburg not long after a four-year stint playing for the Cape Girardeau Chapahas, a National Baseball Congress team.
That baseball background has enhanced the overall respect each brother has for the other — with some wiggle room in between.
“We have disagreements, but ultimately it doesn’t hurt anyone’s feelings,” Robert said. “If I want to do something and he disagrees with me, I’ll usually stick with my decision but always take what (George) says into consideration.”
That hasn’t always worked out well.
“Last week, there was a kid we were pitching to who I wanted to throw a fastball in, and (Robert) wanted to throw him a change-up,” George said. “The kid hit that ball about 600 feet. That’s an example of what happens when he disagrees with me.”
The two certainly have agreed on their roles in helping Dyersburg get to JUCO. The Eagles arrived in the NJCAA national polls for the first time in 2008, six seasons after Robert took over a program in January of 2002 that had won only seven games the previous year.
That success stalled when George took over the school’s softball program since he’d previously been in charge of recruiting the Eagles’ pitching staff. He’s made himself available look at every player Robert and Taylor wanted to look at while helping convince players to transfer to Dyersburg from NCAA Division I programs.
The Eagles have adopted the mantra of “dominate the average,” a slogan that tells Dyersburg’s players not to play down to a lesser team’s capabilities. It helped Dyersburg go from having a seven-win season at the start of the White brothers’ coaching career to a 48-7 record entering the national tournament, with Robert White having more than 400 career victories as the team’s head coach.
“When they were hired, a lot of people told them how this is Dyersburg State and they’re never gonna win here,” said Taylor, who also played for Robert and George. “You tell that to two 25-year-old individuals who are hard-nosed dudes who live and breathe baseball, and they’ll look at it as a challenge.
“Obviously, they stepped up to the challenge and did what nobody thought was possible.”