Opinion: Honor Wright’s Legacy


Courtesy of Olivia Pasquale/Villanovan Photography

Jay Wright’s retirement announcement rocked Villanova’s campus Wednesday.

Zoë Kim, Staff Writer

Wednesday night took an unforeseen turn when the news of men’s basketball head coach Jay Wright’s retirement broke. Students and members of the Villanova community all turned to Twitter and The Athletic to find out if this were true, fearing and finding the worse. 

It’s time for us to enter a new era of Villanova basketball,” Wright said in a statement posted to Twitter. “After 35 years in coaching, I am proud and excited to hand over the reins to Villanova’s next coach.” Fifteen minutes later, former Villanova assistant Kyle Neptune was officially announced as that next coach..

For many of us, there were no words to express a reaction to the news as the stages of grief set in. However, it is important to remember as supporters of the ‘Cats, and specifically of their departing coach, that our most important task now is to honor Wright’s legacy.

For decades, Wright has been the face of our school and its victories against teams around the country. From buzzer-beaters to blowouts, Wright has given it his all. In his twenty-one years as a coach, he has led the ‘Cats to 520 wins, four Final Fours and National Championships in 2016 and 2018. No one in Villanova basketball has put in more work and care for the team and the game than Wright. 

However, he has given us more than titles and wins. He has given us pride in our school and its colors on-and-off the hardwood. But above all else, he gave us the groundwork for a successful team in the years to come. 

Wright’s impact goes beyond the game, too. As long as he has been head coach, Wright has been a massive campus figure. Students’ willingness to wait in frigid long lines during the season was partly for the games, but it was also for Wright himself. He gave students a basketball season to look forward to every year. The day of Hoops Mania, for example, there was a line stretching all the way to Jake Nevin to hear Wright give his annual speech before the season began. And it’s been this way for years. 

News of his retirement was, understandably, a shock to the college basketball world. Some say it is too early for him to leave, while others say it queues a greater shift in the culture of the sport. However, without a doubt, this hit Villanova students especially hard. 

“Everyone goes all out for Jay Wright, so it’s really sad to hear that he’s retiring,” sophomore Elizabeth Baladez said. “We were all in shock by the news and that they already picked a new coach. I’m worried for next season, but I think we’ll get the groove of it with the new coach.”

It is difficult to say goodbye to such a celebrated coach this year. It’s even more difficult to picture a year of Villanova basketball without him. But Wright is leaving Villanova better and stronger than before. He is leaving Villanova with all the tools for next season. 

Considering the already painful departure of key fifth-year starting players Jermaine Samuels and Collin Gillepsie, some say that Villanova basketball cannot come back from the loss of Wright. However, Villanova basketball has and always will have grit and passion for the school. 

Importantly, too, though the school is losing Wright, we’re getting a coach who’s gotten the green light from him. 

“Having one of our own, a guy that’s been with us 10 years in Kyle Neptune, being able to take over, is what our dream was,” Wright said in his final press conference, adding that he was excited to leave the program “better than we found it.” “The leadership that we have on this team next year, this is going to be a really good team.”

Still, of course, there is no easy way to say goodbye to Wright. But, he deserves a Villanova goodbye from all of us. We owe Wright a debt of gratitude for what he has given us, our players and the campus. Thank you, Coach Wright.