FAU’s Dusty May enters March Madness eyeing return to Final Four as speculation swirls about future

FILE - Florida Atlantic head coach Dusty May reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against South Florida, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024, in Tampa, Fla. May is one of the hottest commodities in coaching. His name is been linked to openings at Louisville, Ohio State, Michigan and Vanderbilt. And his eight-seeded Owls start NCAA play Friday in New York against ninth-seeded Northwestern. (AP Photo/Scott Audette, File)

FILE – Florida Atlantic head coach Dusty May reacts during the second half of an NCAA college basketball game against South Florida, Sunday, Feb. 18, 2024, in Tampa, Fla. May is one of the hottest commodities in coaching. His name is been linked to openings at Louisville, Ohio State, Michigan and Vanderbilt. And his eight-seeded Owls start NCAA play Friday in New York against ninth-seeded Northwestern. (AP Photo/Scott Audette, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — The chatter starts even before the first coach is fired, and by the time college basketball coaching jobs actually open up, the speculation is rampant about who is going where.

Yes, Florida Atlantic coach Dusty May said, the constant rumors about his future are a distraction and he is often forced to address them.

“I think a lot of coaches face this. It’s not out of the ordinary. It’s just happening over a long period now because jobs come open during the season,” May said Thursday.

May, the 47-year-old former student manager for Bob Knight at Indiana, might be the hottest name on the coaching market. He is 126-68 in six seasons at FAU, which is making its second straight March Madness appearance after a surprising run to the Final Four last year.

The eighth-seeded Owls begin this year’s NCAA Tournament Friday against ninth-seeded Northwestern in the East Region at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

No. 1 overall seed UConn, which faces 16th-seeded Stetson in the first round, likely awaits the winner of FAU-Northwestern.

May has been most frequently linked to Louisville, which fired Kenny Payne last week — a long-expected move at a blue-blood program that won only 12 games the past two seasons. He is also expected to draw interest from Michigan and Vanderbilt.

“I try not to get caught up in it,” May said. “But as a college basketball coach, I talk to a lot of people. I talk to coaches, I talk to recruits, I talk to our signees, so it comes up a lot. It is distracting, but our job is (to) compartmentalize what we are supposed to be doing.”

FAU is May’s first head coaching job after working his way through the mid-major ranks (Eastern Michigan, Murray State, UAB, Louisiana Tech) as an assistant and landing on Mike White’s staff at Florida.

The affable May added that life is full of things that pull him and his players away from basketball.

“Instagram is distracting. Twitter is distracting. Having your kids with you watching movies while you are trying to watch film is distracting. We all have a lot of distractions and we all have a job to do and that is to prepare to play our best against Northwestern,” he said.

This year’s coaching carousel got revved up on Valentine’s Day when Ohio State fired Chris Holtmann. May’s name came up for that job, too, though the Buckeyes decided to promote interim coach Jake Diebler.

UConn coach Dan Hurley has been in May’s position.

Hurley was in his sixth season at Rhode Island, and coaching in a second straight NCAA Tournament, when UConn was searching for a coach to replace Kevin Ollie in 2018.

Hurley, the former Seton Hall guard from New Jersey, was the obvious target the Huskies, but there was still work to be done at URI.

“You tell your agent to leave you alone, and you coach out your season,” Hurley said.

Hurley’s Rhode Island team was knocked out the NCAA Tournament by Duke on March 18, 2018. Four days later, he was named UConn’s coach.

“If the school wants you badly enough, they will wait for your season to be over and you can deal with the business of basketball then,” he said.

May is far from the only tournament coach whose name is circulating through the coaching carousel as March Madness begins.

James Madison’s Mark Byington has been linked to the vacancy at West Virginia, a job that has been open since Bob Huggins was forced to resign last summer.

“The truth of it is, I think our guys got used to distractions, used to rumors, used to things,” Byington said.

The 12th-seeded Dukes (31-3) face Wisconsin in Brooklyn on Friday night.

Utah State coach Danny Sprinkle is considered a leading candidate to fill the Washington job, along with Washington State’s Kyle Smith. Sprinkle’s eighth-seeded Aggies play TCU Friday night in Indianapolis.

May’s players said he is a good communicator who lets his players know where they stand. He’s also willing to tell his players where he stands.

“So if you have a question or really believe what the internet is saying, you could always ask him, ‘Coach, what’s going on with this?’” guard Nick Boyd said.

Boyd said what lies ahead for May at the Boca Raton, Florida, school won’t have any impact on how the Owls play.

“I mean, if it’s his last game or whatever, we just want to make it special, so who cares,” he said.

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AP March Madness bracket: https://apnews.com/hub/ncaa-mens-bracket and coverage: https://apnews.com/hub/march-madness

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