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FAU Basketball Embarking on New Era Under John Jakus

Under head coach John Jakus, a new era of FAU basketball is taking shape as multiple players look to potentially take their talents elsewhere. He follows Dusty May, who announced that he was leaving for the University of Michigan a day after the Owls’ first-round exit from the NCAA Tournament in late March.

(Kevin Ortiz/FAU Athletics)

By Cameron Priester | MediaLab@FAU

Apr 5, 2024

For the past two years, Florida Atlantic men's basketball has been defined by their unprecedented success and the reaching of heights never before seen in program history: consecutive NCAA Tournament berths, a Final Four appearance, and the most wins in a single season that the program has ever seen.

Now, with a new man at the helm and roster turnover already taking place, a new era seems to be taking shape, and the renaissance of the past two seasons has been replaced with a cloud of uncertainty about the program moving forward. 

Last Friday, that new era became official as Florida Atlantic introduced John Jakus as the 10th head coach in program history. Surrounded by more than a hundred fans and more than half a dozen players inside Eleanor R. Baldwin Arena, Jakus, a former assistant coach at Gonzaga and Baylor, delivered an emotional introductory speech laying out his plans for the continuation of the past two years' success.

“I am not just here to say welcome to paradise, I am going to tell you we are going to win in paradise,” said Jakus in his introductory speech on Friday. “I am going to say this train is not slowing down.”

In the first college head coaching stint of his career, the 48-year-old Jakus will be tasked with filling the shoes of now-former head coach Dusty May, who signed on to take over the same position at the University of Michigan a day after the Owls’ first-round exit from the NCAA Tournament on March 22. 

May departs Boca Raton for Ann Arbor, Michigan as the winningest coach in Florida Atlantic history with an overall record of 126-69, two tournament bids, a conference championship and a Final Four appearance in 2023. May never had a single losing season in seven years at Florida Atlantic after inheriting a program in 2018 on a streak of seven of them.

May’s departure—via a five-year contract with Michigan worth up to $3.75 million annually—left a feeling of malaise about the future of FAU men's basketball. But Jakus’ impressive coaching pedigree and success as an assistant at Baylor and Gonzaga had some fawning over the hire and restored some of the optimism from the past two years. 

“What was more important to me than a bio or resume was the people that I know and trust in this business. That’s coaches, agents, athletic directors and scouts,” said Director of Athletics Brian White. “I talked to a lot of people and put a lot of time in to make sure I am getting real feedback on who our next coach would be, and the name that kept coming up was John Jakus.”

As director of operations at Gonzaga from 2015–2017, Jakus helped lead the Bulldogs to three appearances in the Sweet 16 and two in the Elite 8, and a national championship berth in 2017. He left Gonzaga in 2017 to become the associate head coach at Baylor, where he was a part of their 2021 National Championship and four other NCAA Tournament appearances.

But during his introduction on March 29, his extensive experience took a backseat to the sales pitch Jakus was delivering to the seven players sitting in the front row. As he touted a brand new practice and promised to “make sure the NIL is right,” his pitch turned visibly emotional.

“When you guys went to the Final Four, it was like a train and everyone was on board, and there’s literally nothing anyone could do to stop it,” Jakus said with his eyes fixed on the players sitting in front of him. “My goal is that the train doesn’t slow down, it speeds up, and we keep these guys on it and we do it again.”

In the five days since then, however, the roster Jakus inherited upon his arrival has been gutted. 

Johnell Davis and Vladislav Goldin declared for the 2024 NBA Draft and entered the transfer portal. Giancarlo Rosado and Nick Boyd entered their names into the transfer portal on Monday. Three high school recruits have decommitted from Florida Atlantic and reopened their recruitment.

Goldin, Boyd and Rosado—all a part of the 2023 Final Four run—said in their announcements that they’d be mulling over their options with the “consideration of returning.” Davis, the Owls’ leading scorer and reigning AAC player of the year, made no such promise. 

The four potential transfers—Davis, Goldin, Boyd and Rosado—combined to account for 48 points per game and 82 starts this past season, and with three graduates also on the way out, their departure would leave just three players from the Final Four run remaining on the roster.

The work is cut out for Jakus to potentially retool the roster through the transfer portal, but some are reassured that the connections he built at Gonzaga and Baylor will help him hit the ground running. 

“The first thing in the portal is identifying who fits your system and who you can be successful with,” Scott Drew, Baylor head coach and Jakus’ former boss, told the Palm Beach Post. “And he's really good at identifying talent that fits. And then the second thing is he's really good at developing.”

Drew credited Jakus with bringing several key transfers to Waco, including First Team All-Pac 12 selection James Akinjo and two-time First Team All-Big 12 selection Adam Flagler. 

As Jakus stares down a potentially near-complete rebuild, there’s confidence he’s the man to continue the upward trajectory.

According to White, Jakus left such an immediate impression that the 20-plus-candidate search in the middle of their first in-person meeting. Two hours into their interview, White stood up abruptly to make a phone call. 

That call was for authorization to offer Jakus the job. The search was over. 

“He’s a proven winner with head coaching experience, and he checked about every box that we could imagine. It’s no coincidence that he’s won a national championship, been to multiple Final Fours, been to three Elite Eights and five Sweet 16s,” said White. “If you ask [Gonzaga head coach] Mark Few or Scott Drew, he was a critical part of their success, an integral part of how they built their programs, and knows that roadmap inside and out.”

Coach Dusty May, who coached FAU for six years, has left for a position at the University of Michigan. (Photo: JC Ridley)

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