March 22, 2023
New York, New York, USA
Madison Square Garden
Sweet 16 Pregame Media Conference
DUSTY MAY: Extremely excited to be playing in the Garden, in the Sweet 16, and what a moment for our guys. We're here to compete.
Q. Coach, you mentioned this in your postgame press conference last time and I think a few other times. I keep hearing that word Cinderella come up when people are talking about FAU. I know you don't consider yourselves a Cinderella team, but is it something you take offense to or sort of an eye roller?
DUSTY MAY: Neither. We'll embrace it, whatever they want to call it. We're very, very confident in our abilities and those guys in the locker room. We've never thought of ourselves in that regard just because of the success of our league and our guys being able to do what they did over a 20-game schedule. But we'll take it. Whatever gets the people cheering for us, we're open.
Q. Playing at the Garden, any cool stories or anecdotes from your players? How many of them have never played here before? How many have played here? Anything they've said so far just kind of wide-eyed and amazed at being here?
DUSTY MAY: Very few have played here. Nick Boyd on our team, his uncle was Freddie Hill, so he came here every year for the Big East Tournament. So he's told our guys about it, but obviously it's mostly television, the hype surrounding the Garden and the mecca and all those things. So they're excited to be here.
But our guys have proven all year that the stage isn't too big and the lights aren't too bright. If we lose to Tennessee, it's because they beat us.
Q. Just curious, when you see Tennessee on film and their ability to defend, especially ball screens and the way they can use their physicality, what stands out the most when you break them down?
DUSTY MAY: How well they keep the ball out of the paint and close to shooters with their size, length. But most importantly, it's their intensity and their physicality. They play every single possession like it's their last.
Q. I know you have a slightly different background than many of your coaching peers. I'm curious if you could please tell me how your experience at IU informed your coaching career and if there are still things that you learned as an 18- to 22-year-old that you find useful today.
DUSTY MAY: 100 percent. I played Division II one year and ran cross country and transferred. So I came as a freshman manager as a sophomore in college, so I had a little bit of a gap year.
But the entire journey has hopefully prepared me to be in the position I'm in, but I learned so much. You volunteer 40 to 80 hours a week just to learn from a legend, an expert coach, expert teacher. I take a lot -- I take something daily from what I learned from that experience.
Q. Kind of building off of the Cinderella question, you could argue that your program has fewer financial resources than some of the other schools. Could you speak to how your program has gotten to this point despite not having maybe the same budgets?
DUSTY MAY: Well, I think a lot of our guys -- in today's climate, a lot of places are getting more of a finished product, where a lot of our guys came in with a chip on their shoulder, they had the talent. But what's separated them is their work ethic and their drive to be successful.
And probably being a little bit under recruited, it contributes to that. But it's just a really special group where they like each other, they compete against each other like it's life and death, and then they're in the locker room hanging out for several hours. So it's a really unique blend of personalities and characters, but the one commonality is they're a very competitive and hardworking group. I guess that's two commonalities.
Q. Your team shot about 29 percent from three in the two games, but it's about right for the rest of the tournament. I think 31 percent overall. Is there any reason why the shooting has been so bad in this tournament?
DUSTY MAY: That's a great question for this tournament. We haven't got the ball well in seven or eight games and that's typically what we've hung our hat on. But because we've been able to make a leap defensively and in rebounding and we don't turn the ball over like we have in years past -- the last few years we've been a good offensive team except we've turned the ball over which has negated our three-point shooting ability and our offensive rebounding ability.
We have haven't shot well in a while. Fortunately our guys believe that we can find a way to win because we are scrappy, gritty, and we rebound the ball. And our defense has come a long way, especially over the last month of the season.
Q. When you were recruiting Nick Boyd when he was at the Bosco Institute, what stood out about him?
DUSTY MAY: I went to see Johnell Davis in Gary, Indiana play a game after he was either committed or signed. And I know Dave ^Marabella, who runs Bosco, and they had practice that day. Usually when you go watch a game, you try to stop in and kill two birds with one stone.
I stopped in and watched a practice and Gonzaga was there watching him that day, an assistant from Gonzaga. And it was more his leadership, his personality. And then for whatever reason, I've always had an affection for lefties. So he could pass the ball, he could shoot it, he didn't look like the guards in our league because he wasn't as physically developed.
But as we got to know Nick, I guess we realized how driven he was and how special of a person he is, and that's contributed to his success because he grew late and he's an incredibly hard worker. I've never been around a harder worker than Nick Boyd.
Q. You guys are 10-1 in games decided by five or less points. What's made you guys so efficient in those nail biter games, and how much of that can be coached versus the group kind of figuring some of that out on their own?
DUSTY MAY: I guess I'll be honest, we were 0-8 last year in the same games, and now we've done a lot of self-evaluation to figure out why. Typically you miss a free throw, you have a bad break, a 10 percent three-point shooter throws one in, things like that. It's the randomness of winning and losing. And for some reason, it was never in our favor last year, and it's been in our favor this year. So I wish it was more complex than that.
I do think veteran guards, guys who have been in those positions, you can go practice free throws. But until you've felt those moments and that intensity and that pressure, it's hard to do it. And now our guys did it last year. We weren't successful. They put in a lot of work, and now I think just the belief after we got the first couple.
Q. What is it about this Tennessee team that compares them to Australian rugby rules?
DUSTY MAY: Well, I feel bad because I combined two sports. There's Australian rules football and then there's rugby, and I should have known that, but it was the first thing that came into my mind.
It's the most physical sport without pads that I've ever seen, and I know that was taken, I guess, in different ways. If you said that our team is extremely physical, extremely aggressive, extremely intense, I'd tell the staff and the players you guys are doing a great job because that's what I want them to say about us defensively.
So I didn't see the Duke game, have no idea, I had just heard through Twitter there were some comments made. But I say that in the most complimentary way possible. Coach Barnes is a legend and it hasn't changed. When I was at Florida they were the same way, and it was hard to make a pass, let alone score a basket against them.
Q. When you talk about Boca, you talk about sand and beaches and hot weather. And to be perfectly honest when you got in the tournament, I had to figure out where Boca was. I'm just wondering, when you took over, I heard that you could have -- if you went through a game you could have whole sections of yourself as far as a fan. What has changed?
DUSTY MAY: Great question. Well, number one, in South Florida there are a lot of people from the East Coast that like basketball. We talked about building the fan base one fan at a time. But when we started winning -- and we won in spurts the last couple years, we just weren't able to sustain it like we did this year. People started coming, and our crowds started growing incrementally.
This year, our guys, they share the ball, they pass it, they play incredibly hard, they play with intensity and they're likable during the game, after the game, at halftime, on campus.
I think all those things rolled into one allowed us to sell out, I think, our last seven games in an area where it's hard to get people into the gymnasium especially this time of year with the snowbirds and whatnot. I think a lot of things go into it, but our guys have captivated an area and a university.
Q. Knowing Mike White (indiscernible), how well do you know Danny and how special do you think it's going to be for Brian to go against his brother in this game?
DUSTY MAY: I know Danny well and I think it will be gut-wrenching for both of them to compete against their brothers.
Q. Can you just kind of talk a little bit about how you had that eight to nine-man rotation like you've been doing the whole season. Talk about how important Vladislav Goldin is going to be in this next game when Tennessee have seven-foot center of their own?
DUSTY MAY: Well, Vlad is extremely important in almost every game. And when he's not been in foul trouble, we've played well for most of the season. Vlad hasn't played his best the last couple games. Fortunately Rosado came in and really held down the fort and caused a matchup problem in the first two rounds.
That's the beauty of our team. Every player has an off-night, every player has a bad game or two, and I think it alleviates some pressure and stress when you know this guy going in for me has got it today and you're probably going to have it tomorrow. And if not, then he's going to have it again tomorrow.
I do think that's alleviated a lot of stress this year knowing that we are two deep at almost every position.
Q. Been a couple of days since your second-round win. Just wondering if you could kind of take us through the last few days, what it's been like getting back to campus, what the buzz has been like around the program the last few days.
DUSTY MAY: We've only seen campus through social media and videos online. We decided after the game -- we finished late, I guess, it was Saturday night, we decided that the families, administration, band, cheerleaders, everyone but our team was going back to Boca for a few days. And we were going to get a commercial flight out of Columbus to New York on Sunday.
We got here Sunday late afternoon, gave the guys the day off, gave them basically all afternoon until 10:00 p.m. to go see the city. Some of them did Broadway shows, some of them went to Times Square. They did whatever they wanted to do in the city and then we said on Monday we attached Tennessee preparation with 100 percent focus.
We would have only been back one day. It would have been tough travel. Our guys, there would have been many distractions if you've been to our campus.
Q. Dusty, everybody with Tennessee talks about the physicality. Who are maybe the most physical couple teams you can remember your team playing this season, and how important is it for you to get this pace, this game to be played the way you want it to be played?
DUSTY MAY: Well, North Texas in our league, they're one of the better defensive teams in the country every single year, and they're incredibly physical. They don't have the mass Tennessee has, but they have a similar style where they challenge everything. They put their chest on you. They play in just a rough, physical manner, and they've done it, and it's successful.
They actually just advanced to the NIT Final Four last night with a win at Oklahoma State. It's very similar to that. But we need the game to be a little bit more open. We need to find a way to rebound and then attack in transition because we anticipate them sending forward to the offensive glass.
Q. What have you guys done as a program to adapt to the transfer portal and roster management, player evaluation and retention, and do you believe that it's made things more difficult for programs such as yours, meaning the portal, compared to how it's impacted Michigan State or Tennessee or Kansas State, for example?
DUSTY MAY: Well, it has impacted those guys, as well. I watched the Texas A&M game and their starting center played at Michigan State at some point. So it's impacted everyone. Fortunately for us, eight of our top nine guys were back from last year. And then we had Nick Boyd sitting out, so essentially we had nine of our top ten back, and going forward, we have 12 of our 13 back next year.
Hopefully I'm not sitting here or sitting somewhere with a new roster. It's the climate. Every time we have lost a player in the portal, we feel like we've had an upgrade. And now with the exposure of our program -- but we like our guys. We like our team. They have a chip on their shoulder. But without a doubt, it's going to be fluid every single day.
And until the ball is tipped up next season, you may not know truly who your roster is going to be, and it's part of it. Luckily I'm still relatively young and have a lot of energy because I don't think there's going to be a day where you can just relax and not fear of your phone buzzing.
Q. Nick, Coach said that you went from Columbus straight to New York and you guys kind of had a day off to Rome the city and do whatever. Can you go through the day and how it was exploring the city?
NICK BOYD: It was fun. It was a time for us to wind down and get away from basketball a little bit. We've been on the road consecutively from the conference tournaments, and now we took a couple days to see the selection and stuff like that.
But haven't really been home, so to be able to roam around in a new area where people really haven't been to, it was fun. We seen a lot of different things, a different culture, and I was able to show some of my teammates around, so it was fun.
Q. Just being at the Garden for all of you, have any of you played here before? Is this your first time here? What's kind of the coolest thing about being at the Garden? Has anything -- looking at the pictures, walking around the building, has anything stuck out to you?
GIANCARLO ROSADO: It's my first time at the Garden. It's kind of surreal walking in here after years of watching basketball games, and you're finally here. It's actually smaller than I thought. I thought it was going to be bigger than that. It's nice, though.
JOHNELL DAVIS: It's my first time here. I didn't think it was going to be how it was on TV. It's so different. It just seemed bigger. What he said.
NICK BOYD: I've been here multiple times as a spectator. Watched Big East Tournament, my uncle was coaching in it so it was fun. Obviously to be on the court, a different feeling, and I'm able to embrace it all.
Q. This year when you cracked the top 25, what kind of validation did that give you? Did you feel that was a point where all the hard work was now being recognized and it kind of gave you some momentum for the rest of the season?
GIANCARLO ROSADO: To be honest, it really just gave the team a different type of confidence. If I'm being honest, since May -- I've been saying this a lot, but since May, June, the guys have been -- all 15 guys been putting in a lot of work. So when we seen that number by our name, I think it just gave us more of a reality like we're legit.
JOHNELL DAVIS: Again, it just felt different. Everybody recognized what we could do.
NICK BOYD: Yeah, like you said, gave us a little validation. I like the number, but I feel like when we don't have a number, we play with a little more chip on our shoulder at first. But we got used to it and we embraced it and it gave us a little bit of confidence. But we felt like when we had that number we really liked it.
Q. Nick, after graduating from St. Mary's and kind of betting on yourself and going out to the Bosco Institute and believing you were a Division I player, what does it mean to be on this stage?
NICK BOYD: Man, it's really crazy. I probably never pictured this for myself, to be honest with you. Just working hard, staying with it, never quitting. I mean, I can't really put into words what it feels to be able to have my family come and watch me play out here and be in the Sweet 16. Not just no regular-degular type of event, like the best high level, most watched basketball event this weekend. Man, like you said, it's a blessing. I've got to thank God for it.
Q. Nick, you talked about being here as a spectator for the Big East Tournament. Any of those moments that you were here did you ever envision yourself getting the opportunity to play on this court, and what has this experience been like so far?
NICK BOYD: To be completely honest, like I said, I really didn't expect myself to be in this situation or opportunity or have this opportunity. I mean, I grew up watching Seton Hall, Isaiah Whitehead hit the game winner in the Big East championship. Sterling Gibbs hitting the game winner at the end at Villanova back in the day, I was there for that.
Just moments like that that I never really thought I would be a part of. But to be here with these guys and everything like that, it makes it more special, and I feel like we've got something to prove, and I'm looking forward to it.
Q. Nick, what has stood out to you about Tennessee and this week's preparation, and just how well prepared do you feel that you can match their physicality?
NICK BOYD: Yeah, like you said, the physicality stood out to me from the jump. Everybody calls out phones and says are you sure you're ready for Tennessee? You know they're physical, right?
I feel like that's been the trend for us the whole year. We're an undersized group, but we've got heart. And just got to get yourself mentally prepared and mentally ready to really bang and be physical and try to match that as best you can and give yourself a chance to go to the Elite 8.
Q. You guys have been really good in close games throughout the season. Why do you think that's been the case. And Dusty said that wasn't the case last year, so what do you think has changed on that front?
GIANCARLO ROSADO: I feel like it all just reverts back to the work, back to what this team has built, back to all 15 guys buying into the program. And when you practice so hard, as hard as we do, and go as hard as we do, when you get in those tight games, we don't get tight. When the game gets tight, we get looser and we play more free. It starts there.
JOHNELL DAVIS: I feel like from day one, everybody just believed in each other, from the jump down. When we got in the close moments, everybody was close.
Q. Seems like your guard play this year has been so good, whether it's you two or Greenlee or Alijah Martin. You move the ball so well, spread the floor. What's been the key to that success?
NICK BOYD: We all bought in. Nobody really cares who gets the shine, the buzz, or the credit. We all want to do it for each other. We noticed that we can go as far as possible by doing it with each other, and that's what we're bought into.
Q. Giancarlo, they talk so much about the physicality of Tennessee. You're one of the bigs and Dusty talked about how you stepped up here in the tournament with Vlad maybe not giving exactly what they needed at certain points or foul trouble. How much do you hear that physicality narrative? And as one of the big men on this team you want to make sure that you're able to set a statement that this is a team that's not too physical for you?
GIANCARLO ROSADO: Hey, we're bringing our hardhat. We know Tennessee is physical, but we ain't worried about that. It's going to be a physical game. They're scrappy, we're scrappy. We're going to compete tomorrow.
Q. You guys caught the ire of a lot of people on the internet after Alijah's dunk attempt at the end of the game. Do you guys relish being now some people's villain, or do you have any comments on that?
NICK BOYD: We are all good guys. We're not villains. What happened, that was totally out of emotion. It was not meant to be personal or disrespectful to anybody. We want to be good guys out here. We're not villains. We're just having fun.
Q. I saw in the last game you guys ran that football inbounds play. If you could just talk about what did you feel like when you were first introduced to this play?
NICK BOYD: Yeah, football play is what Coach showed us. I'm pretty sure -- a lot of people run it. I've seen it used other places, and it works. When we first seen it we were kind of confused, but I mean, hey, it helped us win the game whatever day that was, and it works.
JOHNELL DAVIS: The coach showed up, we just believed in what he had drew up.
GIANCARLO ROSADO: Coach May, man, beautiful play caller. Best coach, hands down. We listen to what he say. It's a pretty good play. It's formed to get somebody open and everybody go deep and somebody get open. But good play.
JOHNELL DAVIS: Yeah, he does that a lot.
Q. Giancarlo and Johnell, can you talk about the day off Monday exploring the city but also trying to take those emotions, put them to the side and focus on the game plan Tuesday?
GIANCARLO ROSADO: It was a great day. I was out with Nick Boyd, the boys. Nick is from here so he was showing us around. But it was just a good day to decompress, to wind out, get everything out in Ohio, get a feel for Madison Square Garden. There's a lot going on. I'm from West Palm so there's a lot going on here. It was just a good day to get everything going.
JOHNELL DAVIS: Just being here, this is my first time being here, so I was just soaking everything in. But just being here really coming from where I come from, you don't see nobody like this for real.
Q. Two-part question. One, I don't think enough people talk about your defense. You've been top 35 all year, top 15 against field goal percentage. Maybe speak to what you can do against this Tennessee team that goes through droughts. And two, how big of a priority is it since the beginning to make it to Houston and make the Final Four?
NICK BOYD: I think our defense is pretty good. Like you said, the numbers speak for themselves. I mean, people -- I just think people underestimate us because of our size, but a lot of people don't understand when they get out there with us, it's a different feel and it's a different intensity, and we're very scrappy.
JOHNELL DAVIS: Coach May just stressed it from day one about defense, defense, defense. Anything happens, we just lock in on defense.
GIANCARLO ROSADO: We're taking it one game at a time right now. We're really locked in and focused on Tennessee. Man, we really just -- we're where our feet are. We're really not worried about Houston right now. If we're blessed enough to get to Houston, we'll take care of business when we get there, but we're trying to take care of business tomorrow night.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports