The Jay Wright-era of Villanova basketball is officially over.
After 21 seasons as head coach, Wright officially said goodbye at a press conference Friday morning.
Looking back at his career leading the Wildcats to four Final Fours and two national championships, he fought back tears and said he was just happy to be leading the Nova program.
“Accolades or winning games is not as big as just being the coach at Villanova,” Wright said. “We’ve been part of a great tradition, and we’ve been blessed to be part of that tradition for 21 years. We don’t own this; we just got to be in charge for 21 years.”
Wright said his decision to step down came as the result of not having the same competitive edge he once did.
“We always ask our players: ‘You’re either 100 percent in or you’re against us,’” he said. “We couldn’t ask the players, ‘you got to give 100 percent,’ and I’m giving 70 percent. So, I just knew it was the right time.”
He informed school leaders at the end of the regular season and asked them to keep it quiet until the end of March Madness. Little did any of them know the team would make its fourth trip to the national semifinals under Wright.
Much of this year’s national college basketball coverage was focused on long-time Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski’s final season before retiring. Although not as long tenured as Krzyzewski, Wright was secretly going through similar emotions in his final games as Wildcats head coach. He was even asked about it as both Duke and Nova headed to the Final Four.
“What do you think Mike Krzyzewski’s thinking about? This is his last game,” Wright said he was asked.
“I’m thinking, I know exactly what he’s thinking about,” Wright said.
Nova now turns to Wright’s former assistant coach Kyle Neptune. Neputne returns to the school after leaving last year to become head coach at Fordham University. Prior to that, he’d worked eight years as assistant under Wright.
“My role now is just a standard-bearer for Villanova basketball,” Neptune said. “My job now is to make sure we keep this culture together and keep this high standard of what coach [Wright] has created here.”
Wright will remain involved at Nova, serving as an “ambassador” for the university.
Saturdays just got more interesting.