MBB: With Kentucky job wide open, is Jay walking?

Kyle Scudilla

With Tubby Smith’s abrupt departure from the University of Kentucky’s men’s basketball program, one of the most coveted positions in all of basketball, college or pro, is empty. The prestige of a team that has won seven national championships, rabid fan support and resources available to program are all among the reasons why some of the country’s best and brightest basketball minds are being considered for the most attractive coaching job available.

Therefore, it is no surprise the marquee talent like Billy Donovan of Florida, Billy Gillespie of Texas A&M, John Calipari of Memphis, Rick Barnes of Texas, Mark Few of Gonzaga and Tom Crean of Marquette have all been mentioned as potential candidates to fill Smith’s vacancy at the helm. Although, according to some reports, the Wildcats may not have to look further than their first-round NCAA tournament victory this year to see the man who could lead their program in the 2007-’08 season.

Villanova’s Jay Wright is either a big candidate for the Kentucky job or not in the running at all, depending on who one listens to among the fracas of rumors and speculation dominating newspapers, sports Web sites and Internet forums.

On the surface, Wright seems like an excellent choice to fill the void at Kentucky. One of the main reasons patience ran thin with Smith was criticism that he did a subpar job of recruiting players for the program. Wright can almost indisputably list recruiting as one of his greatest strengths as a head coach. During his time at Villanova, he has recruited three NBA players (Randy Foye, Kyle Lowry and Allan Ray), another player who could be on an NBA roster next year (Curtis Sumpter) and two McDonald’s All-Americans (Jason Fraser and Corey Stokes). He even picked up the pieces after Kelvin Sampson left Oklahoma , by landing the 2007 Big East Rookie of the Year (Scottie Reynolds).

Rumors circulated this week that Wright has already interviewed for the Kentucky coaching job, though, according to a source at Comcast in Philadelphia, the origin of the rumors, no such piece of news had been officially reported by the network, shooting down any real truth those rumors may have had.

Wright signed a seven-year contract extension with Villanova in 2006 that could keep him with the team until the 2012-’13 season. Kentucky’s interest in Wright is also unknown at this point, with many rumors suggesting that Donovan is the top candidate and could take the job shortly after Florida’s final tournament game.

So while there may not be a definitive answer as to whether or not Wright leaving is a real possibility, in the eyes of ‘Nova Nation, as long as the Kentucky job is open, no news is good news.