The Arizona Rattlers fired Danny White Wednesday, the only coach the franchise has had since its inception in 1992.
The move came less than a month after White and the Rattlers had lost their third straight Arena Football League championship game, but was not unexpected.
The Rattlers were among the teams sold to Robert Sarver when Sarver bought the Suns from Jerry Colangelo in a deal that closed in late June. White, whose contract was expiring this offseason, had long wondered if he would have a place when new ownership took over.
No one with the franchise could be reached for comment. White did not respond to a phone message.
White went 121-55 in the regular season and 20-10 in the playoffs in his 13 seasons. He also won two ArenaBowl titles before the Rattlers fell short in the last three.
The top two candidates to replace White are Todd Shell, who was once White’s defensive coordinator and most recently head coach of the AFL’s New York franchise, and current Rattlers defensive coordinator Doug Plank. White frequently butted heads with the team’s star players like veteran Hunkie Cooper, but there was a respect between the veterans and White because of the team’s perennial success.
“The only reason I am still here is because of the players and how much I have enjoyed the group we have put together,” White said during the season.
The move comes at a time of flux for the whole franchise. The league put out its official list Wednesday of the current free agents, and Arizona has a whopping 20, including most of the key players on the roster.
The team’s top two receivers, Randy Gatewood and Siaha Burley, and top two linemen, Wendall Gaines and Bryan Henderson, have expiring contracts. So do the team’s top two defensive specialists, Ricky Parker and Kelvin Hunter, and other key veterans like receiver/linebacker Tom Pace, fullback/linebacker Bo Kelly, kicker Nelson Garner and backup quarterback Joe Germaine.
Before the news broke Wednesday of White’s ouster, team vice president Gene Nudo said that despite all the uncertainty “I know (the offseason) will be approached as business as usual.”
But Nudo also that White had meetings planned with management about the future in the next week or so, plans that obviously have changed.
Nudo is also about to be without a contract, but he said he has gotten “indications from ownership I will continue on forward.”
Teams cannot officially negotiate with free agents until September, but Nudo said every one of the players the Rattlers want back were assured of their importance by the team before the season ended.
Arizona already has Cooper and quarterback Sherdrick Bonner, the team’s two biggest stars, under contract for 2005.