Dusty May: Owls star coach’s upbringings and rise to coaching

When Dusty May took over as head coach at FAU, they hadn’t had a winning season in seven years. With May at the helm, the Owls have yet to have a losing season, and are on the verge of their first NCAA Tournament berth in over 20 years.


Eston Parker III

Coach Dusty May during FAU’s match against Western Kentucky on January 20, 2022.

Jahsheem Benjamin, Staff Writer

If you haven’t heard the talk about Dusty May, then you’re definitely missing out on what he’s accomplished as head coach for FAU men’s basketball. 

After finishing with a 19-15 record just a season ago, May currently has the Owls on pace for their most successful season in program history, and on the verge of an NCAA Tournament berth. 

In May’s fifth season as head coach, the Owls already sealed their best record in program history, after going an undefeated 17-0 on their home court at Eleanor R. Baldwin Arena and finishing with a Conference USA (C-USA) record of 18-2. Their Feb. 25 victory over the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) clinched their undefeated record at home, and also won them their first ever C-USA regular season title.

When the Owls defeated the University of North Texas on Dec. 12, 2022, it was also the moment that May became FAU’s winningest coach in school history. Despite his success, May, who can be characterized by his humility, rarely basks in his accomplishments.

“This means absolutely nothing,” said May, after the Owls earned their sixth win of the season on Nov. 30, 2022, to match their best start in program history.

Three months and many victories later, his sentiment hasn’t changed.

“When the season is over, it will feel nice and we can look back and say ‘Wow, that was awesome,’” said May. “If you start thinking about those things, and being consumed with anything other than your day-to-day preparation, that’s when someone sneaks up on you and we refuse to let our guard down.”

May’s passion for the game of basketball started at a young age. 

“My mom signed me up for a league in elementary school, and whatever it was about the game I was immediately pulled to it. I was so aggressive and loved it so much,” remembered May. “Something about this game at a young age reeled me in, and it’s been a life-long obsession.”

After playing in high school, May would go on to play a year of Division II college basketball at Oakland City University in his native Indiana. 

After his time as a player ended, he wanted to get into coaching and got his first opportunity as a student manager under the wing of legendary coach Robert “Bobby” Knight at the University of Indiana.

“I did all the behind the scenes work. Just trying to learn how to teach, learn how to coach, learn the business side of it,” said May. “There couldn’t have been a better experience for a 19-year-old than to go work for, possibly, the greatest basketball coach of all time.”

May was a part of several programs throughout his coaching career before ending up at FAU, including assistant coaching roles at UAB, Louisiana Tech, and the University of Florida.

It was during his third year as an assistant at Florida, when May accepted the job of head coach at FAU, inheriting a program that was on a streak of seven consecutive losing seasons.

When May arrived in Boca Raton, the Owls improved to 17-16 in his first season as head coach.  

“One thing we talked about from day one, we are not going to make excuses for anything,” said May. “We had a very resilient group, and we got off to a great start in year one.”

The program only continued improving with May’s tenure, finishing with a record of 17-15 in his second season, and 13-10 in his third. 

The 2021-22 season was May’s best at the time, and showed many signs of improvement as the Owls finished 19-15.

The season, however, saw the unexpected as the Owls at the moment sit atop the C-USA with one of the best records in the country.

Despite being originally polled to finish fifth in the conference, they were at one point ranked as high as #19 on the Associated Press Top 25 Poll. May described the first couple of months of the season as a “whirlwind.”

“We have great leadership in our locker room, we have unselfishness and an extremely high work capacity. We also like to feel like we have improved a lot as coaches and teachers as well in these four years,” May said. “A lot goes into winning, it’s difficult to win one game, let alone 25 games. So, all those things rolled into one has allowed us to make the jump.”

May still hasn’t faced a single losing season with the Owls. According to his players, that success isn’t by chance.

Bryan Greenlee (left), Giancarlo Rosado (center) and Dusty May (right) discuss a gameplay against FIU on March 3, 2022. (Eston Parker III)

“Coach May is one of the most hands-on head coaches in the country,” said sophomore forward Giancarlo Rosado. “A lot of coaches, right after practice is done, they’re gone. Before practice, you won’t see them until like 10 minutes before practice. Not coach May, he’s one of the most hands-on coaches and he cares about us.”  

Sophomore center Vladislav Goldin speaks highly of May, who he finds to be especially transparent.

“It didn’t matter if it’s something important or even a small chat with coach [May]; he’ll always find time for the people in his life. He is a lot more open to everyone than a lot of people,” Goldin said.

This season is on pace to be one of the most successful, if not the most, in program history. FAU has appeared on several expert’s NCAA Tournament field predictions, being slated as high as an eighth seed at one point by ESPN analyst Joe Lunardi. 

Fans and media members aren’t the only ones taking notice of May’s success during his tenure at FAU; other programs could be watching as well. His name has already been floated as a potential candidate to fill the head coaching vacancy at the University of Mississippi. However, according to May, he “couldn’t be happier” at FAU.

“Myself, my family, our staff, we absolutely love it here. We love this university, we love this area, that’s really all there is to say,” said May. “You never know what the future holds, you never know what one year, five years, ten years down the road looks like. But I can say that we absolutely love building this program and look forward to continuing doing so in the future.”

Editor’s note: This story is in the UP’s latest issue that can be found physically on the distribution boxes around campus or digitally through our Issuu page.

Jahsheem Benjamin is a contributing writer at the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet him @JBenzzofficial.