In a surprising move, Hall of Fame coach Jay Wright is retiring as the most successful men’s basketball coach in Villanova history.
The school sent out a release Wednesday night confirming the initial report by The Athletic and saying Wright would become special assistant to the Villanova president.
The 60-year-old Wright guided the Wildcats to NCAA championships in 2016 and ’18, compiling a 520-197 record (244-123 in the Big East Conference) during his 21 years at ‘Nova. He took Villanova to the Final Four this year before losing to eventual champion Kansas.
“Over the past 21 seasons, I have had the opportunity to live out a professional dream as the head coach at Villanova,” said Wright in the news release. “(Wife) Patty and I have been blessed to work with incredible, gifted young men who allowed us to coach them and brought us unmatched joy.”
Fordham coach Kyle Neptune will succeed the popular Wright. Neptune left Wright’s staff after eight years as an assistant, to take the Fordham job in March 2021. He went 16-16 during his lone season at Fordham. Neptune, 37, played his college ball at Lehigh.
“After 35 years in coaching, I am proud and excited to hand over the reins to a member of our basketball family, Kyle Neptune,” Wright said.
Neptune and Wright are scheduled to meet the media Friday morning. Wright supposedly told his players the news during a team meeting Wednesday night.
Wright, a 1979 Council Rock High School graduate, was part of the 2021 induction class to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame after serving as an assistant on the 2020 U.S. Olympic Team that won the gold medal in Tokyo.
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Villanova has either won the Big East regular season title or conference tournament in each of the past nine years. The Wildcats went 263-53 during that span, including an incredible 136-16 from 2014-18. He was selected the Associated Press men’s college basketball coach of the decade for the 2010s.
Wright, a former Villanova assistant, became the Wildcats’ head coach in 2001-02 after seven years as coach at Hofstra. He tended to go with three-guard lineups and undersized big men, emphasized 3-point shooting and preached playing Villanova basketball. That meant defending, hustling, sharing the ball and supporting your teammates.
Wright was highly respected by other college coaches for the way he handled himself and was willing to share his philosophies with others, especially younger coaches.
Tom Moore: tmoore@couriertimes; @TomMoorePhilly
This article originally appeared on Bucks County Courier Times: Villanova basketball coach Jay Wright retires