Pay attention, future athletic directors.
If you want to make money for your school and have it ranked nationally in basketball, go get a young charismatic guy who can coach and recruit.
Easier said than done, but Villanova followed that formula when it hired Jay Wright over 10 years ago and the Wildcats have been a national power ever since. With a 70-53 win over visiting Seton Hall in a Big East basketball game on Friday night, Wright joined the exclusive 400-win club (counting also his time as a head coach at Hofstra).
Villanova is ranked No. 6 in the country and, although the players win games, Wright’s ability to bring players to the small private Catholic university in the suburbs of Philadelphia has made him the big man on campus for the past decade. While places like Kentucky and Indiana can offer luxurious dorms and lavish practice facilities, Wright can offer only a Spartan existence.
Nothing was more Spartan than this week for the Wildcats because an icy storm closed the school for a couple of days. The team got in a couple of vans for the short drive to Haverford School. They hit the floor and the lights went out there, too.
“We were there like five minutes and the lights went out,” Wright said on NBC-10, a Philadelphia TV station. “There was enough light coming through the windows that we practiced until dark. It was like being kids outside again and playing pickup games until it was dark.”
That’s the kind of fun Wright brings to the program, breaking the monotony of a long season. With Wright, they’ve known long seasons: Two Sweet 16s, an Elite Eight and a Final Four appearance.
How does Wright do it? The power of his personality.
In his previous game, Wright tied the mark for most 20-win seasons (nine) at the school with former head coach Rollie Massimino, who has one-upped Wright with a national championship. That could change soon. Of all the great teams Wright has had, this might be the best. We won’t know for sure, though, until March.