Jay Wright, Hall of Fame Villanova basketball coach, returns

Jay Wright’s story at Villanova has come to an end.

The Big East Conference was informed on Wednesday night of Wright’s plans to retire immediately from coaching, said a person familiar with the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because the pension had not been announced. An official announcement is expected later Wednesday night.

Wright, 60, left men’s college basketball at a relatively young age and at the helm of his profession. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame last year. He has won two Division I national championships in the last seven seasons. He recently led the Wildcats to this year’s Final Four, where they lost to Kansas, the eventual national champion, in a national semifinal. Wright, whose appearance and style have earned him comparisons to actor George Clooney, has guided Villanova to four Final Fours and five Big East tournament titles in the last 14 seasons.

A coach since 1994, Wright has set a record of 642-282 (.695) during his career at Hofstra and Villanova, where he has coached since 2001.

Wright becomes the third high-profile Division I men’s basketball coach to retire in the last two years, after Duke Mike Krzyzewski, who retired after a run in this year’s Final Four, and Williams, who retired after the 2020-21 season. has. Wright is significantly younger than both men. Krzyzewski is 75 years old and Williams was 70 when he retired.

Krzyzewski has won five national championships and Williams three. Before retiring, Wright’s two titles bound him with Kansas Bill Self under active coaching. Iona’s Rick Pitino won titles in Kentucky and Louisville, but the latter, won in 2013, was later fired by the NCAA.

“I’m definitely surprised,” Williams, who lost his tar heels against Villanova in the 2016 NCAA Championship game on a last-second 3-pointer by Kris Jenkins, said in a phone interview.

He added: “Jay is just 60, he has so much more time for the game, but I like it because he made the decision for what was right for him and his family and I can live with that. Jay is one of the giants of our game, he’s a great friend.

Williams recalled that after beating Villanova North Carolina 77-74 to win the title in Houston, Williams waited for Villanova players and coaches to congratulate Wright before his moment with Wright.

“I told him, ‘I’m very happy for you. I’m devastated for my team, but I’m very happy for you, “Williams said.” And Jay called me back a few days later and said how much that means to him. And he’s a great guy. He’s one of the giants of our game.

As the original iteration of the Big East diverged in 2013, with universities with top-level football programs like Syracuse, Louisville, Connecticut and West Virginia going for other leagues, Wright helped keep the “new Big East” together. : He summed up the coaches. under his leadership with a vision to build a basketball-centric league that could compete with Power 5 schools that have both basketball and football.

“Of course he was great,” Creighton coach Greg McDermott said in a phone interview. “His leadership, when the Big East was kind of reformed, I think is the reason why the league is where it is today. He was all from the beginning to make sure this would work and was certainly a big part of it.

Known for his stylish clothing items for years, Wright enjoyed not wearing them in the relaxed atmosphere of the pandemic, and instead wore three-quarter zippers and sweatpants. He said at the Final Four that he did not pack a single costume for the trip to New Orleans.

With retirement in mind, Wright does not have to wear a costume anytime soon.

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