Interview with Scott May

BLOOMINGTON, IND. -- <i>Inside Carolina</i>'s David Thompson sat down with Scott May, the father of UNC signee Sean May, for an extensive look at the future Tar Heel and his recruitment.

Inside Carolina: You must be very proud of Sean.

Scott May: Oh, no question! He's been great through this whole thing. He's a lot smarter than I can give him credit for being. Yes, I'm real proud of him.

IC: When a person gets to see Sean in action for the first time, what do they notice about him?

Scott: Wow! Tonight you'll probably see five guys guard him. They don't guard anybody else. You'll see his hands, probably. You'll see his footwork. You'll see his strength against guys his own age.

I doubt that tonight he'll play on the perimeter very much. They've been playing him mostly under the basket and he's been very effective underneath the basket.

So watching him for the first time, he's nimble and he's very nimble for a guy his size and how big he is and how tall he is. Deceptively quick. He doesn't look all that quick. He gets down the floor really well.

It'll be interesting, if he has one of his normal games, what you think after you see him play…

IC: How have his stats been, Scott?

Scott: His stats have been good. He started off kind of slow. Him and the coach had a thing going and they've settled that. And now, he was telling me the other day how comfortable he is now. His stats are really good. I think he'll be fine.

IC: You had a great career. How gratifying is it to you now to see your son coming along?

Scott: For me, with both of my boys [other son, Scott, Jr. is a guard at IU], I never pushed them towards basketball. I always wanted it to be a thing that they wanted to do because of how difficult it is to become a player, let alone to try to become a great player or a good player is hard.

They both picked it up. They both wanted to play. They both felt a love for the game. All I did was support them, answer questions and support them.

IC: How did you help Sean as he was growing up in developing his game?

Scott: I did this for Sean: I played with Gilmore, Artis Gilmore, and I played with Bob Lanier—two really great players. And I used to watch them, what they used to do in practice as far as moves and drills and post moves and that kind of thing. And those are the kind of things I taught him to do. Lanier was a great user of the backboard—banking it off the glass. I taught Sean those kinds of skills, to be able to use the glass and shoot the basketball.

So, a lot of things probably started with me. And then from playing with older kids, and playing with guys over at IU, he probably developed some things on his own.

IC: Sean has an older brother. Did that competition help his development, too?

Scott: I think it helped him as far as his competitiveness because he hated to lose. But the older brother is so much smaller; they never played one-on-one quite a bit. As far as lighting a fire up under him, getting him to play hard, his older brother really did that.

IC: How about with you playing Sean?

Scott: [laughing] We went at it for a long time! This past summer was the first time he's ever beaten me. And it's the last time! That was the last time we ever played. We won't play again.

IC: Is that because of your competitiveness?

Scott: Oh yeah! With him, yeah. I used to never let him beat me. This summer he was just too much for me.

IC: Tell me a little bit about this game?

Scott: Oh, one-on-one? [laughing] Well, it was one-on-one and we kind of changed the rules a little bit because you can't take a shot in the lane. Or he could just back me down in the lane and shoot over me, you know? I think we played like 15 buckets. We played three games, whoever wins the best of three games.

This summer, my "reign as king" was over! [laughing] And we haven't played again, and we won't play again.

[shaking head, laughing and repeating] My "reign as king is over!" The king of the court is old, so…

IC: What do you think is the strongest part of Sean's game?

Scott: Wow. I think his intelligence. It'll be interesting to see after a year or two what Doherty thinks. But I think his intelligence of the game. His love for the game.

Hopefully, I think he'll be a good rebounder for them, a good post player for them… His passing will be something that I think could be developed.

I just think he's an untapped commodity. He's just untapped. He's going to get bigger—you just look at his body and he's not fully developed. He's got a lot of baby fat still which tells me he's probably going to grow and lose all that.

So I just think, boy, he's got a heck of a future!

IC: What do you think Sean needs to work on most at this point?

Scott: There are a lot of things the kid needs to do. I think it's probably unfair to him because of his development, because he's not fully developed. I'm sure when he plays, he plays where he doesn't want to hurt anybody, whereas when he gets older that won't be a problem.

He's going to have to get himself in better conditioning. I think that'll come as his stamina and his body develops.

He's going to have to be a better perimeter player. Most high school coaches don't want him to play on the perimeter, so how can he develop to be a perimeter player unless you play out there? So I think that's something that he's going to have to get better at.

And as he grows, as he learns the game, as he becomes older, as his stamina gets better, all that will fit right in and come right together.

IC: Have you seen improvements from last year to this year?

Scott: I've watched him play against those IU players. Usually high school guys don't score against college guys! But man, he scores. In pickup games you know? That doesn't happen!

IC: Do you think the recruiting analysts have Sean pegged at the right place—a top 10-15 talent?

Scott: I don't know. I told him, "Man, hey, don't worry about all those rankings because they don't mean doodley-squat. What you should worry about is trying to become a better player. What you should try to worry about is getting to North Carolina early to fit in, to learn where classes are, to play with some of the players."

I don't know if the guys that rank players ever see them play, other than once or twice! Some of them never see them play.

I think that it's great to be ranked. It's great to be put on a pedestal where, as far as all the high school players in the country. But at the end of the day, it doesn't mean doodley-squat because you have to get to college and you have to prove what kind of player you're going to be.

IC: How does Sean, at this point in his career, compare to where you were at this age?

Scott: It's probably hard to compare. I wasn't quite as big and I wasn't carrying around what he's carrying around. People fail to realize that—what this kid's carrying around! He's not 6-6, 185. [laughing] He's 6-9, 260! And he's running down the court, handling the ball like a guy 6-1, 185!

So I think you've got to look at that.

I think that he's a better player than I was at this age, at 17, because of what he's been exposed to.

IC: Are you from a basketball family?

Scott: No. I was a self-made player. I played on the playgrounds. I played on the streets [Sandusky, Ohio]. And what I learned was on the streets.

Well, he's had years of watching IU play. He's had years of going to their games, playing with their players. He's had years of playing at the HPER building [The Health, Physical Education, and Recreation Building (HPER) at IU] where all the students play, all the college students, which a lot of them are probably pretty good high school players.

So he's had all that and plus, he's had me, who has played at every level, telling him, "No, don't work on this, don't work on that. Work on this."

You follow me? And I never had that. And I never had all that wealth of knowledge and he's had it, right at his footstep.

IC: Compare Sean's experience at recruiting to that of yours.

Scott: I think the difference in the two are that the rules are different. Whereas, back in my day (and Coach Smith and me talked about this a little bit), they could call as much as they want, they could come visit you as much as they want, they could come see you play as much as they want. Whereas now, they are limited in what they can do and what they can say.

You've got to really give schools credit. It's hard to recruit a kid when you can only talk to them once a week or whatever the rules are. And trying to convince this kid to come to your school [laughing].

IC: You've mentioned Coach Smith a couple of times. Describe your relationship with Coach Smith.

Scott: We've kept in contact over the years—letters, that kind of thing. I haven't seen him since that period but we've written each other and talked on the phone. It's been really good.

Matt [Doherty] has been really good and he wanted me to talk to Coach Smith through the process and played it straight.

IC: Were you able to talk to him through the process?

Scott: Yes. Him and Phil Ford. Both guys were really key—I was teammates with Phil on the '76 team.

IC: We've heard that there was a turning point in the process when Phil Ford joined the process during a visit. How important was that?

Scott: It was real important! Because Phil is someone I know. And he said this to me, "Hey, if my daughter was coming to school at Indiana, I'd call you on the phone and say ‘Hey, my daughter is coming to school up there. Can you look after her?'" And I said, "Yeah." I would've done it for him.

And he's doing the same thing for me. Sean wants to go to school at North Carolina. I called him and said, "Hey. My boy is thinking about coming to school down there." He said, "Hey, don't worry! I'm not going anywhere. I'll watch over him. I'll help him."

And Coach Smith was the same way. And you just can't—you just can't beat that! When two guys like that say, "Hey, we'll be here!"

IC: What do you think about Sean in the classroom?

Scott: Good student!

IC: Does he have a direction in which he's headed academically?

Scott: That's something that we've talked about. But I think he's just talking about going down there and taking some general courses. I think they're on semesters and maybe at the end of his freshman year, see where he's at and then decide what he wants to major in. He really hadn't said anything like, "I want to major in this."

IC: A lot of guys Sean's size and age are being approached by pro teams, even out of high school. Have any pro teams approached Sean?

Scott: [laughing] He ain't ready for no pros! No, he's not ready. We've talked about that. He's just not ready and, he may not be ready in 4 years. I hope that he's ready in 4 years but…

IC: Does he have that aspiration?

Scott: Oh, I think every kid that plays college basketball would love to get to the next level. Sean has said to me on many occasions, "I need to worry about right now. I don't know what I'm going to do tomorrow, let alone talk about what I'm going to do 4 or 5 years from now."

IC: What's the most important thing to you about Sean and what's in store for him over the next few years?

Scott: I think the most important thing to me, as a parent, would be for him to be at school somewhere where they want him and where he's happy. I mean, you could be happy and be on the team. You could be happy and be a great player on the team. I just want what's best for him.

I want the school where he's at to be proud of him, to be a part of his life, to be involved in his life and for both parties to be happy. That's pretty much all I want, whether he plays every minute or doesn't play at all. That's pretty much where I'm at with it because, college to me, should be something that should be enjoyed.

IC: What were some of the deciding factors in Sean's decision to attend the University of North Carolina? The decision never seems to be made by one person alone…

Scott: I guess the way I try to handle it was I tried to open up every avenue that I could. I tried to let him talk to all the people that I knew in basketball. All the schools that he wanted to come to our home, we invited them in, let them do their presentations, let them talk to us about their schools.

And we went to visit six or seven schools on our own. We paid to go. And I tried to open up his horizons as far as looking at the head coach, looking at how they play, looking at the school, looking at the type of kids that they were recruiting, looking at whether or not they were interested in winning a national championship… To look at all those things before we made a decision.

And we, over four or five months, we started to go through and think it out and narrow things down and we got to Indiana, North Carolina and Louisville. And it was just a lot of different things.

We felt Louisville had a great coach. He was new and building a program. It was an hour away.

We felt IU was a program that we knew, that we'd been a part of, that I'd played at, that my shadow would be over him, looming over him. They had a new, young coach with a new system, different in the way that they've always played in the past.

We looked at Carolina: great program, great tradition, Phil Ford, Coach Smith—guys that I had relationships with that I knew. Doherty, a new coach, young coach. The distance, being 687 miles away.

All those things factored in. And he, to me, handled it the way I would've handled it. And I didn't want my emotions because of IU, or my emotions because of Bob Knight (we went to see Bob Knight), that kind of thing, to play a part in his decision because it was his decision. It is his life.

And I had to keep those things out, but I had to open up all the avenues so he could see the total picture. And I think he did. I think he saw everything that I wanted him to see.

IC: There have been some challenging questions you've answered before. This is one of those questions about the trip to Lubbock, Texas and the role it played with talking to Coach Knight.

Scott: No problem. The trip to Lubbock was set up originally for an attorney friend of mine, [who's] an attorney for me and [also] an attorney for Bob Knight. They hadn't spoken since the firing [of Coach Knight]. I tried to get those two guys back together. And, in the process of doing that, I wanted Sean to go down and see the campus, see Coach, talk to him.

Coach has known the kid all his life! We've talked every year about this kid and I felt he ought to go talk to Coach whether he went there or not. I felt that Coach Knight had experience enough that he would not tell the kid wrong of what he thought this kid ought to do.

And he was great! He said, "If you don't come here, here's what I think you ought to go. Here's the situation I think that's best for you."

And that's pretty much what it was. Two days later, I called Coach and said, "Coach, the kid wants to go to Carolina."

He said, "Great decision."

He said, "They've got a good program, great school. When you were here, I told you that I went through the list of their players and I was wrong." He said that. He said, "Sean's going to play. They don't have anybody like Sean."

And that was pretty much it.

IC: Let's talk a little about the difficulty of making such a decision. What relationship did Sean have with IU as he was growing up?

Scott: Other than going to the games, and going to the locker room as a youngster getting autographs, going to Coach's camp—I'm sure Coach had his eyes on him ("Hey, this kid is getting bigger!") [laughing]. I'm sure of that. You know how coaches invite those kids to camp. They look and see. I'm sure that was part of it, but other than that, following me to games was pretty much it.

IC: So how about as you've seen him deal with the decision. Has he been under pressure? Has it been a tough thing with his peers, with the community because of his choice?

Scott: You know, I can't say that it's been all peaches and cream around here. But, you know, there's a lot of people in this community that care about Sean and me. And they want to see him play. They wanted that.

And I can respect that. I can appreciate that.

But what people don't understand is that it's not their life. They're not 6-9, 260. It's him. It's his life. It's his future. And since he felt that that wasn't for him over there, then you have to accept it. Maybe he didn't want to play in my shadow.

IC: It's a big shadow!

Scott: Yeah. Maybe he wanted to leave home. That makes all those things play into the equation. Maybe he wanted to go somewhere on his own and start his own legacy. So I as a father have to respect that.

I think that the day after he announced I did a thing in the paper. Our local paper said, "Everybody, don't hate Sean. He's a good kid. He's 17 years old. There's other players. He had a decision to make and he made the decision that was best for him."

IC: How's Sean handling it?

Scott: Oh, fine. Because I tell him to use this example. There's a quarterback, named Grossman. Plays at Florida. From Bloomington High School [South], right across the street over here [literally could be seen out of Scott's office window]. His dad played at IU. He chose Florida. Let's treat Sean just like Grossman. Let's support him. That's what I told him [Sean]. If anybody talks to you, just tell them that "Well, Grossman went to Florida. He left."

IC: What was it like to play for Coach Smith on the '76 Olympic team? What did you take away from that experience?

Scott: Great. Coach Smith had the respect of everybody.

As I look back, he was in a tough position because the Olympic team had lost their first game [to the Soviets], four years earlier! Here we are, trying to reclaim the gold medal. And he did a really great job keeping that pressure off of us.

I didn't realize it as we were playing and going through. We were young and we had just won the national championship. I was recovering from that. And now here's the Olympics.

I'll never forget one day that we were in the Olympic village and Bill Russell comes into our training room. I was talking to the guy and he said to me and I will never forget it. He said, "You know, Scott? Catch this. How many guys you know have an Olympic gold medal? How many people walking down the street that you could shake hands with have an Olympic gold medal?"

And I thought, probably nobody—nobody in my home town. He said that to me, telling me how important this was. I never realized it until later on as I got older that all the guys I played with in the pros—no medal. All the people in my hometown—they're so many people that I come across—they don't have it [a gold medal].

And I didn't realize it until some years later, what he was telling me. "Opportunity is a visitor. There's no saying that it's going to come back again. Here's an opportunity to win a gold medal. You need to get it done." That's what he was telling us.

But Coach Smith was great. He was great.

IC: Beside Phil Ford and Coach Smith, what other Carolina players do you know?

Scott: There was Walter Davis. Kupchak. Tom Laguarde. Buckner was on the team. [No acquaintance] since we left the pros. But when we were in the pros, every time we played Phoenix or every time Chicago would play Phoenix, Walter and I would get together. Or Phil and I but not since.

IC: To whom would you compare Sean's game, on the college level or on the pro level? Are there any comparisons that you can make?

Scott: I don't know. You know a lot of people compare him with Barkley or Malone, but it's just hard. Maybe Scott Williams? One of the better outside shooters. Scott Williams of North Carolina? He might be one.

I mean it would be great if you could compare him to Charles Barkley or Karl Malone. I don't know. It's just… Sean is just good around the bucket and plus he can step out to 18-19 feet and shoot the basketball. And can pass it. And that's a unique combination, to be able to play with your back to the basket.

IC: We shot some video clips earlier of him shooting a three. How's his range?

Scott: He can shoot the three. So it'll be interesting how, once he gets to Carolina how Coach Doherty will develop him.

IC: It's been difficult the past few weeks for Carolina. Any second thoughts on yours or Sean's part about coming to Carolina?

Scott: You've got a young team. I know that—I played on a young team that could go through making mistakes and unforced turnovers and passing the ball where you think the guy may be instead of passing the where he's at. So I think that all those things, as his team goes through the season, will come about. I think they'll get better as the season goes on.

IC: Do you have any encouragement to those guys?

Scott: Yes. I was talking to Phil Ford, last week and I said they just need to do the things they're capable of doing and stay away from the things that they can't. And I've only seen them two games, Kentucky and when they played IU. Just work hard and do the things you're capable of doing.

IC: How about Sean's work ethic? Is he in the weight room?

Scott: Yes. He's got a personal trainer. I got him one this year, trying to help him a little bit. It's interesting, he's been talking about, "Boy, I can't wait to get down to Carolina." He's talked about going down there early and enrolling in summer school, one of the first sessions and already getting acclimated. So I think his work ethic will be the key for him.

IC: How often do you think you will get to Carolina to see him play in person?

Scott: [laughing] As much as I can. I don't think there's a direct flight from Indy to Raleigh-Durham. But I think I can go Cincinnati to Raleigh so I'm going to get there as much as I can.

IC: Was that a major factor in all this?

Scott: Oh yeah—the distance. I know Sean. He's close to me; he'll want to talk to me because I've always been able to watch him play and give him some advice because nobody knows his game better than me because I helped develop it. Yeah, I think it'll be important for us to get down there as much as we can.

It'd be great to walk across the street over here, two miles away and watch the kid play, but you've got to support him.

IC: How about his mentality on the court?

Scott: I think he just wants to win, whatever it takes.

IC: Is he a vocal leader?

Scott: I think he is in high school. He tries to put kids in the right positions. I think the majority of it is "Give me the ball and I'll get it done."

IC: Would you consider him a finesse player or a banger-type?

Scott: A bit of both because I think his ability to step out on the floor, his ability to give you a shot fake and go around you, and his ability to take it strong to the bucket. He's a little bit of both I think.

IC: What's your read on the Heels this year?

Scott: Young team. Young coach. Lost a few players. Just have to work to get better every week. I have corresponded back and forth and [written] "I understand you've got a young team. Lost some guys to the pros. And you have to manufacture some points as a team."

He's got some good players—Lang…

IC: What's Sean going to bring to the team next year?

Scott: More size, maybe. Being able to stretch the defense with your inside guy. A low post presence for sure. Pound it down to the inside and he's going to be able to score is my opinion.

More guards penetrating—rather than his man being able to go to them to help out, there's going to be space now, because he can step out. When they penetrate, they're going to be able to either finish at the basket or kick it to him. So that'll be three or four different things that I see in their team that they're going to have.

IC: What do you think Sean's potential is?

Scott: I really don't know. I think that it all depends on Coach Doherty, what role that he gives him. I really don't know.

A lot of it depends on Sean, how hard he works. I'd say he can be as good as he wants to be. North Carolina has all the facilities that you need to become a good player. They have everything. From the way they recruited the kid, it looks like to me they want him to be a good player.

IC: What did you like about the recruiting process Carolina did?

Scott: They did a good job. Matt, I didn't know Matt. He took time to come down here…

IC: That's how you got to know him?

Scott: Yes. Matt said that one time while I was playing in Italy, our team played against North Carolina. I can remember playing against North Carolina but I don't remember him. I knew Michael Jordan was on the team.

IC: Do you feel like you've gotten to know Coach Doherty a little better?

Scott: Oh yes. He came down here and we played golf one day. I think they showed us that they really wanted the kid. Did a good job recruiting him, was honest with me. The only thing that he asked was to be given a chance. That was pretty much it, so I have no problems with how they recruited the kid.

IC: Do you know the assistants there?

Scott: No, although I'd gotten letters from them. But I didn't know them first-hand like I know Phil Ford and Coach Smith.

IC: Do you have any words of wisdom for other parents going through the recruiting process?

Scott: [laughing] Take your time. Really look hard at all the things the coaches talk about. Ask a lot of questions. Talk to other people about the program, about the school.

Give your kid a chance to make his own decision. Don't make the decision for him. Give him all the insight, leadership, guidance. Show him everything he needs to succeed and to hear and to make an intelligent decision.

And enjoy it. I enjoyed it. I really had a good time with all the coaches. I really enjoyed Pitino. Rick Pitino, I really enjoyed him. And he was really good.

On the same token, I enjoyed visiting Coach Doherty. I enjoyed visiting with Mike Davis.

And just enjoy it and give them an opportunity to grow and mature as a kid and make their own decision.

It's his life, it's his decision and all I did, I showed him all the things he needed to see. That's what I would say to other parents.

Coach Knight told Sean, "It's not about your parents, it's not about your brother. It's about you. You're going to be the one living with it."

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