Another legendary coach calls it quits

Jay Wright -Photo Courtesy of The Sporting News

Another legendary coach calls it quits
April 28
10:27 2022

Villanova men’s basketball coach Jay Wright has announced his retirement at the age of 60 and 21 years as the Wildcats’ head coach. This was unexpected as the Villanova Wildcats are still one of the best teams in the country and Wright seems to be in peak health.

Wright is the third high profile head coach to call it quits in the last two seasons. He follows retiring legendary head coaches Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski who have won multiple national championships.

According to Wright, he said he lacked the same “edge” this past season that he had in the past. In his retirement news conference, Wright said there were times before practices and workouts where he had to give himself a pep talk.

If this is truly the end for Wright, he walks away with an impressive resume that includes two national championships, eight Big East regular-season titles, 642 wins and a gold medal as an assistant for the U.S. Olympic men’s basketball team.

“During this season, it started to hit me,” Wright said emotionally. “I started to look at where my coaching was. Everybody being in place: our staff, the team. We wanted to leave this in a better place than we found it. And we wanted it to be strong and in a great position when we left.

“I started to feel just like I didn’t have the edge that I’ve always had, where the edge always came natural to me, so I started evaluating it.”

There were thoughts of retirement for Wright for the last few years, but he made the final decision to retire prior to his team’s Final Four run. He had to come out to his players about his plans earlier than he wanted to once rumors began to swirl.

Wright did things differently than how Coach K chose to say goodbye to college basketball. Coach K announced it early enough that he could have a farewell tour throughout the season. His team made it all the way to the Final Four and nearly allowed Coach Krzyzewski to walk away as a champion.

Williams did not announce that he was retiring until after the season and it was also a shock to most fans and the press. I think the Coach Williams and Coach K retirements were more palatable because they had coached for so long and also had a history of medical issues. Wright seemed to have at least another 10 years on the sidelines before retirement talk would arise, but when the desire isn’t where it used to be, then retirement is the right choice, especially for the kids.

Wright says the current state of college basketball also played a role in his decision. The transfer portal and NIL (name, image and likeness) deals are now a big part of college basketball and have changed the game forever.

“I think those changes are eventually going to be really good for college basketball,” said Wright. “I’m so impressed with how we handled NIL as a team. Some of our guys made really good money. And they had 3.8 GPAs and they went to a Final Four. But there is a side of it where … [Neptune and our younger assistants] are at another level than me when it comes to that stuff. They’re really visionary about it. And I feel like I’m the coach that’s trying to keep up with it. That impacted us where we felt like this was a good time.”

Wright said he plans to stay active with the program and university, but is not sure what he will do next. He says he can leave the program knowing that it is in a better place than when he arrived and is poised to maintain the level of excellence they have enjoyed recently.

“The greatest thing for us has always been just to be the coach at Villanova,” he said. “Accolades or winning games is not as big as being the coach at Villanova. We’ve been a part of a great tradition and we’ve been blessed to be the head of that tradition for 21 years. We’ve always said, ‘We don’t own this.’ We just got to be in charge for 21 years.”

The loss of Wright will leave yet another hole to fill in the landscape of college basketball. Hubert Davis took over for Williams at North Carolina and took them to the national championship game in his first year. Jon Scheyer will take over for Coach K next season and is in line to carry on the tradition Coach K set at Duke for the past 40 years.  

Kyle Neptune, a former Villanova assistant, will take over for Wright at Villanova. Neptune was previously the head coach at Fordham University.

A coach like Wright does not come along often. I am sure he had several offers to leave Villanova over the years. I’m also sure that some of those offers were from schools with a higher profile than Villanova and even from the professional ranks but Wright stayed.  That speaks a lot about the character of Wright.

More and more, we are seeing the old guard of head coaches leaving the sidelines.  Now it will be interesting to see how many of these young coaches step up and enter the ranks of elite coaches.  Only time will tell.

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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