Villanova Community Reacts to Coach Wright’s Retirement


Courtesy of Olivia Pasquale/Villanovan Photography

Jay Wright spoke at the Villanova Men’s Basketball Awards Thursday night.

Vivi Melkonian, Co-Editor-in-Chief

Late Wednesday night, the Villanova community was surprised by news of Men’s Head Basketball Coach Jay Wright’s retirement. The news sent shockwaves across campus, Philadelphia and the country alike. 

The unexpected news elicited emotional reactions from all members of the immediate and greater Villanova community. 

“I was definitely shocked when I heard the news,” sophomore Emmett Greenwood said. “Jay Wright is a face of the school, and basketball is such a big part of the experience here, so I was definitely surprised and sad when I learned of his retirement.”

Greenwood expressed his sadness at this announcement, but he also thanked Coach Wright for his integral role in basketball and in the Villanova community. 

The news came on Wednesday evening. Villanova’s chapter of Delta Gamma was enjoying its Anchorman Formal on the Moshulu in Philadelphia when murmurs of Wright’s retirement began erupting. Members of Delta Gamma erupted in pleas of denial when the official email from Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A, Ph.D. appeared on their notification centers.

I think the initial shock of the news was what impacted all of us the most,” said Mia Cunningham, a sophomore in Delta Gamma. “I know I wasn’t expecting Jay Wright to step down as head coach and I don’t think anyone else was either, at least for a while.”

The news came as Cunningham was going through security on the Moshulu. Wright’s unexpected announcement put a damper on the atmosphere of the formal for the initial parts of the evening. However, she expressed her gratitude and well wishes for Wright after the initial shock. 

“I am so incredibly happy for Coach Wright. he has had such an amazing career and is truly a legend,” Cunningham said. “I am incredibly sad to not have the opportunity to watch him lead our basketball team in my next two years here, but I feel blessed to have been able to watch him in action this past year.”

Beyond sadness, the Villanova community has expressed an overwhelming feeling of appreciation for Wright and his impact on the Villanova basketball team and University community as a whole. 

After a wildly successful run during the 2021 basketball season that took the team all the way to the Final Four in New Orleans, it would have been hard pressed to find a better ending to such an incredible and immense career. Wright led the team to unbelievable success this season in a final run that prompted students to travel thousands of miles by any means necessary to see Wright in the Big Easy. 

Junior Tommy Dillon traveled via RV to the Final Four earlier this month. The 20 plus hour drive was made possible by the motivation Dillon and his friends had to see Men’s Basketball and Wright’s iconic coaching in action. 

“I’m grateful that I got to see his last game as head coach,” Dillon said. “[I’m] sad as a Villanova fan, but happy for him as a person.”

Though the ‘Cats did not return to Philadelphia with another championship title, there was no lack of gratitude and respect for Wright’s leadership and perseverance in an amazing final season.

Students also spoke to the unfortunate timing of Wright’s retirement announcement, which came just over a week before the start of final exams. 

“It’s causing me a lot of sadness during an already stressful time,” sophomore Angela Ferrigno said.

Unexpected study breaks were in order across campus on Wednesday night in the wake of Wright’s announcement. 

“No one really saw it coming,” senior Stephanie Frank said. “He didn’t have a farewell tour like (Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski). It was really unexpected, and everyone recently has been laughing about finals, and then hearing about retirement is like the worst timing ever.”

Some students do wish they had known this was Wright’s last run, so they could have embraced his final moments as coach. However, the lack of retirement tour upholds the Villanova Basketball philosophy that playing basketball is more than just a game, tournament and championship. A flashy retirement tour is not Jay’s style.

Wright will be missed by students and faculty alike. From the dining halls to the classrooms, the subject is unavoidable. 

“I, like so many other Villanovans, was saddened and shocked to hear about Coach Wright’s retirement,” Mary Beth Simmons, Director of the Writing Center, said Thursday. “My phone blew up last night with text messages from colleagues and friends near and far. I got to Villanova the year before Coach Wright did, so it’s been a delight to follow not only his success as a coach, but I always admired how he talked about helping shape his players into a whole person.” 

Simmons explained that as a teacher she appreciates how Wright always upheld a high scholarly expectation for his players. 

“Yes, basketball matters, but so does your education, your compassion for others, and leading with your heart and mind in the world beyond campus,” Simmons said. “That’s what Villanova is supposed to do!”

Additionally, comments of gratitude weaved throughout the tables in the dining halls. 

“I’m sad,” an anonymous cook said. “He is a very nice guy.” 

Villanova’s Augustinian friars also expressed their thoughts on the announcement.

“I’m grateful for all he has done for the University, for the Basketball team, for admissions,” said Father Bill Gabriel, O.S.A, M.Div. CLAS ‘14. “As a friar, you could have anyone better on the front lines communicating with you. [I’m] grateful.”

Sadness and shock initially permeated campus, but overarching gratitude for everything Wright has done for Villanova overcame any early disappointment. 

“His departure from coaching is significant, but I trust in Kyle Neptune taking over and what a blessing it will be to have Jay Wright continue on at ‘Nova in a new role,” Simmons said. “He is always so positive and optimistic, even in the face of adversity, so I let myself be bummed about the announcement for a few hours, but then decided to look toward the future with authentic hope.”

Students are looking ahead to the upcoming Neptune era of Villanova Basketball, while also echoing Wright’s incomparable presence on and off the court, which has deemed him a hallmark of Villanova.

“Jay Wright is definitely the heart of Villanova, through and through,” Cunningham said.

A career filled with staggering statistics and records broken is just a faction of what warrants Jay Wright’s legendary status. From the suits to the “All Wright, All Wright, All Wright” t-shirts that pervade through campus, Wright is the epitome of Villanova Basketball, a Wildcat and a Villanovan. His iconic presence on the court will surely be missed, but his impact will never be forgotten.