Malloy was open about wanting to hire Ty and White went with O'Leary. Malloy was conscious of making a statement and he liked Ty's image. He made that known in the SI cover story after the MSU game in 2002.
Yes, there is always an inclination to go after people who really want you. That explains O'Leary. It in part explains why people are likely to give Mullen the benefit of the doubt since due to his time at ND they have heard that he is high on ND for a future job. But there's nothing about whiteness per se that gave O'Leary an advantage. He was a superior candidate than Ty. And I can't think of a black candidate at the time who would've been arguably superior.