Father Peter Speaks on Wright’s Retirement


Father Peter expressed excitement for the Neptune era of Villanova Basketball.

Vivi Melkonian, Co-Editor-in-Chief

There were few people who knew ahead of time about the retirement announcement heard ‘round the world, but University President Rev. Peter M. Donohue, O.S.A, Ph.D. was one of them. Former Villanova men’s basketball coach Jay Wright and Father Peter have a longstanding relationship as two most prominent figures of Villanova University. 

A routine meeting between the pair in the wake of the Wildcats’ Big East Tournament Championship win turned into a conversation Father Peter never expected this soon. 

When asked if he was surprised by the news, Father Peter quickly sighed, “Oh, yes.”

 “Every year, my experience has been he’s (Jay Wright’s) like, ‘oh, I’m tired,’” Father Peter said. 

Father Peter explained that the time commitments of coaching required Wright to relinquish much of his postseason free time to recruiting new players. Especially considering the length of this year’s season for the Wildcats, the recruiting process began almost immediately following the Final Four. 

“They get right out [of the season] and on the road again,” Father Peter said. “He’s always tired… but last summer he didn’t get a break because he was with the Olympics in Tokyo.”

He explained that Wright, along with the rest of the Olympic coaching staff, was isolated the entirety of the trip, which took away from the enjoyment of the experience. 

“This year he’s been tired, ‘I’m tired, I’m tired,” Father Peter said. “And it’s like, oh, there he goes again but he really was tired.”

Father Peter explained that Director of Athletics Mark Jackson was the first to know about Wright’s retirement. 

“Mark Jackson came to me and said, ‘Jay Wright wants to talk to you,’” Father Peter said. “I said, ‘oh, what about,’ he goes, ‘I think I’ll let him tell you.’”

Father Peter joked that it’s not irregular for Wright to request a meeting, but it was usually related to a request for the athletics department. He repeated Wright’s words.

“He said, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I’m just not in it a hundred percent. And I tell the players all the time, they have to give a hundred percent. And I, I’m just not able to do that. I’ve been doing this for over 30 years, and it’s just too much,’” he said. 

Father Peter went on to explain that Wright wanted to leave on a high note, in good health and scandal free. He said Wright praised the staff and team and was dedicated to finding the right person to continue the program and culture of “Villanova Basketball”. 

“It was a tough secret to keep,” Father Peter said. 

He detailed that there was a lot of debate as to the best time to deliver the news to the community. Originally they planned to wait until after commencement, so as to not take attention away from the graduates. However, once people started getting wind of Villanova looking for a new head coach, they moved the announcement date up to May 1. 

As the community is aware by now, things did not go according to plan. 

“Then this reporter called,” Father Peter sighed. 

The rest of the story is known by now, as news of Wright’s retirement broke late on Wednesday, the night before the team’s annual Awards banquet. Wright called a meeting that night to inform his players, and soon after, former assistant Kyle Neptune was announced as the program’s new coach. Wright’s official retirement press conference and Neptune’s introduction took place on Friday. 

When asked if he thought Wright’s absence from Villanova Basketball would affect the spirit and culture of the school, Father Peter said he did not. 

“I think everybody will be pretty good,” he said. 

Father Peter explained that Wright will still be a presence on campus as Special Assistant to the President. Though he will not be involved in the day-to-day of the basketball program, Wright will still be around to work on “special projects” and continuing a relationship with the team. 

“He would like to be able to go out to breakfast or lunch with the players and talk to them about life, not talk to him about defensive moves and yell at them about things,” Father Peter said. 

When asked for his thoughts on new coach Neptune, Father Peter smiled and expressed his delight with the hire. 

“Well, I love him,” Father Peter said. “He’s a great guy. And he was here for a number of years, so I knew him and he was Jay’s first assistant and he was really good.”

However, Neptune’s hiring does not mean the end of the great working relationship and friendship between Father Peter and Special Assistant to the President Jay Wright. Their camaraderie, friendship and leadership of Villanova is sure to continue in the future.