Advertisement

FAU introduces John Jakus, who is hoping plenty of Owls come back next season

John Jakus is already recruiting at Florida Atlantic. Among his top targets: players with plenty of collegiate experience who have been part of 60 wins over the last two years and made it to the Final Four last season.

They're already in Boca Raton. And Jakus wants them to stay.

Jakus' introductory news conference at FAU was Friday afternoon in Boca Raton, and his first public act as the school's new coach was speaking directly to those players who have decisions to make — stay or go? — and state his case for them to come back next season.

“I just asked them one thing: ‘Give me a chance. Give me a chance,’" said Jakus, whose five-year deal pays $1 million a year. “And the reality of the situation is if you leave, maybe you find something better. But I doubt it. Because what you've built here and what you've built as friends is fantastic.”

Jakus' arrival at FAU's arena was accompanied by a standing ovation from fans and boosters, a blaring school pep band and cheerleaders waving pompoms in the air. And it took about two minutes before the new FAU coach was greeted by expectations, too.

“Coach, you know we're going back to the tournament next year, right?” FAU President Stacy Volnick said, as those in the gym roared in approval.

It's a new era at FAU, but the goals won't change, and Jakus wouldn't have it any other way. The former Baylor associate head coach was hired Wednesday night to replace Dusty May — who left after six seasons for Michigan, ending a run where he took the Owls to the Final Four a year ago and back to the NCAA Tournament this year.

“I’m going to fight like crazy to keep you,” Jakus told the players. "And I’m just going to tell you this real quick: If you’re a season ticket holder, I wouldn’t give that up. If you’re a student who had to wait in line because it’s so hard to get into this place, I'd tell you to get here earlier next year.”

The interview process was quick. After about two hours of an in-person meeting with FAU athletic director Brian White and others — White, smartly, let Jakus sit facing the window overlooking the beach and ocean water below — it was made clear that the Owls were about to make an offer.

Jakus called his wife, Sara. They've had offers before and turned them down because of what it might mean to their family; one of their three children was born with severe autism. Jakus made clear that in his house, what Sara says goes.

“And so, we said yes,” Jakus said. “She said yes.”

The deal was done, Jakus met his new team a couple hours later.

“He's won a national championship. He’s been to multiple Final Fours. He's been to three Elite Eights and five Sweet Sixteens,” White said. "You know, that’s success. He wasn’t just a part of it. He was a big part of it.”

Jakus and May have exchanged messages this week; Jakus thanked May for what he did at FAU, and May wished him luck.

Jakus was at Baylor under Scott Drew for seven seasons — including the team’s national championship season in 2021 — and spent time at Gonzaga as director of operations under Mark Few before that. During that three-year stretch the Bulldogs went to an Elite Eight one year, a Sweet 16 the next and then national title game.

Jakus has familiarity with South Florida. He has family there, has vacationed there, even went on spring break there once. ("I'm not going to tell you what happened during that time, OK?" he said.) In his initial conversation with White on Sunday, Jakus revealed that he's planning to retire in the area and that “if you're going to bring me here 20 years earlier, let's do it.”

He's already started using some of the school's top selling points: The campus is 1.8 miles from the beach, the weather's often perfect, the athletic department's slogan is “Winning in Paradise.” And as he looked at FAU's current players on Friday, he told them about that first call and how it made him realize FAU is where he wanted to be going forward.

“I wanted it bad. So, I spent an hour just selling my heart out for it,” Jakus said. "And one of the reasons I wanted it so bad is because what you guys have done. The beach is great. Paradise is great. What this university is is great. But what you guys have given this place is what I want to be and what I’ve been about. And the two Final Fours have been some of the greatest memories of my life. And the fact that you guys have done this, I want to do another one with you.”

___

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