Former Florida basketball assistant coach Dusty May is one win away from leading FAU to its first Final Four. The Owls have been not just one of the tremendous mid-major teams of the season but one of the great overall teams in the country, with a record of 34-3.
But May’s success in Boca Raton wasn’t overnight. And while we debate whether or not Todd Golden can turn things around in Gainesville, May is a reminder that sometimes a coach needs a couple of years to get things going.
If they do it the right way.
Florida Basketball: Long way around
May was an assistant under former Gators coach Mike White from 2015 thru 2018. He was on White’s staff in 2017 when Florida made it to the Elite Eight, so the Owls’ contest against Kansas State in Madison Square Garden isn’t his first time on this stage.
When May went to FAU in 2018 to become the head coach, he reeled off four straight seasons of almost identical results. In order, he went 17-16, 17-15, 13-10, and 19-15. Winning records all four years prior to 2022-2023, but nothing that screamed out an Elite Eight team.
It’s partly why Florida’s loss to FAU early in the season felt like such a letdown because FAU was nothing more than a mid-tier mid-major. Seven players departed after 2021-2022, and he only took in two new transfers.
The key to FAU’s success this season is that four of their five top scorers are players that committed to FAU out of high school, and a different combination of those four are in at least their third season of college basketball.
The translation is that May has built FAU from the ground up, similar to what Billy Napier is trying to do with Florida football.
How does this relate to current Florida basketball coach Todd Golden?
For one, it is a sign that coaches are able to turn things around if given time.
But the difference between May and Golden is that Golden’s roster will be made up of transfer portal guys with almost exclusivity for the second straight season heading into 2023-2024.
So if someone wants to defend Golden and point to May as proof that things can be turned around, that’s fine, but it also means there must be signs of stability within the program. If we get to this point a year from now and Golden is again heading to the transfer portal to fill his roster, he doesn’t get the free pass that “he’s building” when his foundation keeps getting knocked down.