By Mark Montieth
Like father, like son
Sean May likely to join dad Scott as 1st-round NBA draft pick
The NBA draft was but a gentle breeze when Scott May was in it 29 years ago, not even faintly resembling the windstorm his son, Sean, will face Tuesday.
May, the consensus college Player of the Year after leading an undefeated Indiana University team to the NCAA championship in 1976, was the second overall pick by Chicago. He got word of it via a phone call placed to Chapel Hill, N.C., site of the trials for the U.S. Olympic team. And that was that.
Sean May has spent the past three years in Chapel Hill playing for North Carolina. He entered the draft after leading the Tar Heels to the national championship, and he soon will match another of his father's accomplishments by becoming a first-round draft pick. But his selection -- expected to come near the middle of the first round -- will be televised internationally, culminate a hectic month of auditions and interviews, and spark a flood of analysis.
"It's more of a business nowadays than it was then," Sean said.
A lucrative business, though.
Scott pointed out that his son some day likely will earn more in one year than he did in his entire seven seasons in the NBA. He also expects his son to have a more rewarding career than he did in non-financial terms, though he is living proof that nothing is guaranteed.
Scott May averaged 14.6 points and 6.1 rebounds as a rookie for the Bulls, playing off the bench in every game. He blew out his knee during his second season, however, and had surgery after its conclusion. He had a second operation during his third season and never had his anticipated impact. After five seasons with Chicago, one in Milwaukee and finally a nine-game drive-through with Detroit, he finished his playing career over seven seasons in Italy.
Sean, born in Chicago after his father's first season overseas, lived in Italy for six years before the family moved to Bloomington, Ind. Scott already had begun buying and developing apartment buildings, and today owns and manages 1,400 units.
It's a rather ordinary job for a once-extraordinary talent, but Scott has no complaints. He lives a steady, fundamental, low-key life that matches his playing style, and he clearly has passed his outlook to his son.
Quinn Buckner, May's teammate at IU and another first-round pick in '76, has known Sean since he was born, and has watched him develop into a replica of his father.
"Sean is mature in a lot of ways," Buckner said. "He's very, very comfortable with who he is."
The elder May helped accomplish that by keeping his past in the past -- or, in the case of the video tapes of his career, in the closet.
Sean May took a DVD of IU's 1976 NCAA championship game victory to this year's Final Four, where he won MVP honors. He had never seen it before, and Scott had it only because his other son, Scott Jr., had bought it for him as a Christmas gift. Sean has watched a few tapes of his father's NBA games, but they weren't must-see TV.
"I've only seen a couple of game films when he played with Milwaukee," Sean said. "I've never seen him play for the Bulls. For the most part, he's never talked about it at all."
That's because Dad never saw the point of reliving his glory and interfering with his son's quest. He's been so intent on keeping out of Sean's way, in fact, that he agreed to an interview for this story only after checking with Sean for approval.
"We don't dwell on things I've done or I've accomplished," Scott said. "I don't go around saying, 'Well, when I played 30 years ago . . .' I just try to help him understand how the game is played now and how he can help himself get better."
Scott and Sean will join an elite group of father-son combinations Tuesday. Only seven other former first-round draft picks have had sons follow in their footsteps. John Lucas, the only player selected ahead of Scott in 1976, also has a son in this year's draft, John Lucas III, but the point guard from Oklahoma State isn't expected to go in the first round.
The Mays are taking their imminent moment in stride. Sean has made it a point to lavish praise on every team mentioned to him as a possible destination, and states no preferences.
"We've always kind of approached things that whoever takes you, you're happy to come and do your best," Scott said. "Be a pro. Listen. Keep your mouth shut. Play hard every day and just enjoy the experience.
"He understands not too many people have a chance to get drafted. It's a privilege and an honor and you go and do your best and see what happens."