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John Jakus introduced as new Florida Atlantic head basketball coach

'I wanted it bad,' former Baylor assistant says of job, asks players to give him chance
Posted at 6:08 AM, Mar 29, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-29 17:42:26-04

BOCA RATON, Fla. — Welcome to paradise, John Jakus.

That's the message the newest head basketball coach at Florida Atlantic kept hearing in the days leading up to Friday's introductory news conference at the Eleanor R. Baldwin Arena.

It appears he's found paradise in Boca Raton – and he couldn't be happier.

A sometimes-tearful Jakus spoke in front of his newly acquired players, FAU fans, school administrators and members of the media as he explained what led him from Baylor, where he's served as an assistant under Drew Scott, to Boca Raton.

WATCH: John Jakus introduced as new FAU basketball coach

John Jakus introduced as new men's basketball coach at FAU

Jakus said he got word from his agent last Sunday that FAU athletic director Brian White wanted to speak with him. It was the same day as Baylor's second-round NCAA tournament game against Clemson.

He wasn't sure he had the time, but he's glad he made the time.

"I grew up coming down here," Jakus said of Boca Raton. "My cousin lived here so we had family here, came here for vacation. I came here for spring break. I'm not going to tell you what happened during that time, OK. But I've been down here before and I know how special Boca is. I actually love this place. I told Brian the first time we talked, I'm going to retire here, so if you're just going to bring me here 20 years earlier, let's just do it."

John Jakus at FAU introductory news conference, March 29, 2024
John Jakus speaks to the media behind a backdrop welcoming him to Florida Atlantic during his introductory news conference, March 29, 2024, at the Eleanor R. Baldwin Arena in Boca Raton, Fla.

By the time he took the call, Baylor had just lost – "and I hate losing," Jakus noted.

"Frankly, I wasn't in a great place, but I wanted it bad," Jakus said.

"So, I spent an hour just selling my heart out for it, and one of the reasons I wanted it so bad is because of what you guys have done," Jakus continued, pointing to the FAU players sitting in the front row.

Jakus credited the current crop of Owls for what they've achieved – reaching the Final Four in 2023 – and told them he wants "to do another one with you."

Head coach John Jakus addresses FAU Owls players during introductory news conference, March 29, 2024
New Florida Atlantic head basketball coach John Jakus speaks to his players during his introductory news conference, March 29, 2024, at the Eleanor R. Baldwin Arena in Boca Raton, Fla.

He replaces Dusty May, who left Florida Atlantic for Michigan.

A discipline of Baylor's Scott and Gonzaga's Mark Few, Jakus helped the Bears win a national championship as an assistant in 2021 and served as Gonzaga's director of basketball operations when the Bulldogs reached the national championship game in 2017.

Jakus, who signed his contract Wednesday night, thanked May for the foundation he laid and said May, who, like Jakus, was a first-time head coach when he left Florida for FAU in 2018, has spoken with him to wish him well.

At one point during the news conference, Jakus fought back tears as he spoke about his second son, who was born with severe autism.

"I was a pro coach overseas before, and when we found that out, we had to move home to take care of him," Jakus said. "And so I sacrificed my head coaching career in my early 30s to put my family first. And my wife and I have turned down a bunch of jobs, and I've been blessed to be with Mark and Scott for a while now, but this one she didn't want to turn down."

White said FAU is now a national brand, which attracted several candidates.

"Everybody we wanted to talk to wanted to talk to us," White mentioned.

But it didn't take long for White to realize that Jakus was the best man for the job.

FAU President Dr. Stacy Volnick, Sara Jackus, John Jackus and FAU athletic director Brian White hold jersey during introductory news conference, March 29, 2024
Florida Atlantic University President Dr. Stacy Volnick, Sara Jackus, new head basketball coach John Jackus and FAU athletic director Brian White hold up an Owls jersey during John Jackus' introductory news conference, March 29, 2024, in Boca Raton, Fla.

"I just want to say that this is where my world and FAU world collides, and from this point on, they're the same thing," Jakus said.

Jakus said he's met with each player individually.

"I think we can build what Baylor and Gonzaga has done, but I think we can build it in a better way because outside this door is the beach," Jakus said.

Jakus touted an entertaining brand of basketball and spoke glowingly of his players' potential earnings from name, image and likeness opportunities.

"A lot of people stand up here and they promise things," he said. "I'm not going to do that. I've been to a couple of Final Fours. I know what a national championship looks like. I don't feel like I need to promise things."

But he did say that, defensively, "You're not going to see a team play harder than we're going to play."

Jakus also called the "best part" of his interview process being able to keep it "a secret." He said he asked the players just one thing: "Give me a chance."

"The reality of the situation is, if you leave, maybe you'll find something better, but I doubt it," he said. "Because what you've built here and what you've built as friends is fantastic. And my hope is that they would give me to Monday, and I don't know if you noticed. None of them are in the (transfer) portal."

After the news conference, WPTV's Todd Wilson asked Jakus why he thinks he was hired.

Todd Wilson speaks to John Jakus after introductory news conference, March 29, 2024
WPTV's Todd Wilson speaks to new Florida Atlantic head basketball coach John Jakus after his introductory news conference at the Eleanor R. Baldwin Arena, March 29, 2024, in Boca Raton, Fla.

"To be honest, I think I have this job because of what other people said about me," Jakus said. "I think, hopefully, 80% of this was done before I even started my interview because the people that I love love me back, and I think that's what it was. I just got lucky with a good coaching tree."

FAU is coming off consecutive NCAA tournament appearances — highlighted by a Final Four run in 2023 — for the first time in school history.

Jakus said that "the worst thing we can do with all this momentum and all the fans is slow that down."

"So, I know how important that is," he said. "Kids want to play in front of great crowds, so the fact that we have that right now makes the community a big deal."