West Forsyth girls basketball head coach David May posted a picture all too fitting to his Twitter account Thursday morning—a graphical endorsement of the Cleveland Cavaliers, his home state NBA team that’s back in The Finals after the dramatic return of LeBron James, that simply read, “All In.”
That slogan represents the headstrong mentality that returned to the Cavaliers’ fanbase after James spent 2010-2014 in Miami. He had a calling, but it wasn’t long before he realized he belonged home.
May and his players at West Forsyth now tell a similar tale.
In early March, May chose to take the proverbial next step in his budding coaching career by accepting the position of head coach with Collins Hill High School in Gwinnett County. Collins Hill administration anointed May as the man to return the Eagles to the state championship after winning five consecutive titles between 2001 and 2007.
The feeling was initially mutual, as May, after spending three seasons with West after moving to Forsyth County from Columbus, Ohio, looked forward to going from a county known for outdoor sports to one of the largest basketball hubs in metro Atlanta. But before May put pen to paper and moved into his new office in Suwanee, the “next step” in his career fizzled into nothing.
“Coach pulled us all together and told us he needed our contact information for the new coach, then after a second said it was him,” senior center and Maryland commit Jenna Staiti said. “We thought he was kidding. We didn’t believe him either time.”
Staiti and the others, especially West’s four other returning seniors, couldn’t believe he had chosen to leave in the first place.
“When he first told us, I kept asking why, why, why,” Staiti said.
It was a valid response: West was coming off its best season in team history. The Wolverines finished 22-6, 15-3 in Region 6-AAAAAA and were a bucket or two away from advancing to the second round of the state playoffs when their season ended in a 50-47 loss against Woodstock.
Staiti, a 6-foot-5 center who’s considered a top-10 recruit in the state and a top-30 prospect in the entire country, gives West talent many Gwinnett coaches won’t have in their entire career. Seniors Abby Quincy, Jane Ortlip and Hayla Seitz give West a potent and experienced backcourt.
For all intents and purposes, West returns the team in 2016 that’s built to break the next layer of ice in Forsyth County’s march toward sports notoriety. Had May completed the exodus, the seniors admitted their final year would have been plagued by fluidity.
“After we found out he was leaving, I thought senior season was just going to be adjustments. I didn’t know if practices were going to be anything I was used to, so I was just not prepared for it,” Ortlip said.
All of this potential uncertainty from players was delivered through smiling faces. May’s departure, essentially, never happened.
“It all kind of happened pretty fast,” May said. “I was over there working out kids and doing that type of stuff, doing a lot of different things over there and everything was going well. But we just had conversations here, I guess it all happened in a matter of two or three days. Just some things, starting conversations with my family, I ultimately decided to stay at West.”
May couldn’t leave his wife, Katie, at home so much, nor could he stand the thought of missing out on the senior season of his daughter, Mikayla, who attends West. His son Isaac also plays basketball for the Wolverines.
“The more I did things over at Collins Hill, the more I realized I was going to be here less than I wanted to be. And the fact I wasn’t running away from anything here to go somewhere else, it all made sense to stay here at West,” May said.
Coach May’s task for the next few years will be to develop a plentiful but youthful bunch that follow in his senior’s footsteps. He isn’t expecting an influx of talent to walk in West’s doors, nor is he worried about that. His job is to develop the players he has.
For now, it may not be the job conventional wisdom provided, but he may be the only one to do it.
“We’re trying to establish the culture with the junior Wolverines program and getting younger kids involved, because we are a program that, up to this point, hasn’t had a lot of transiency and that type of stuff. With the county growing, there’s so much potential, but you can’t plan your program like that. You work with the kids you have,” May said.
At West’s fifth summer workout Wednesday afternoon, the sighs of relief from players were still present. It was hard for them to believe, thanks to their coach’s sense of humor, that he was actually back.
However this much is clear: No matter the location, May’s quest for a state championship is on.