The Neptune Era


Olivia Pasquale/Villanovan Photography

Kyle Neptune at his introductory press conference in April.

Colin Beazley, Co-Editor-in-Chief

NEW YORK — Kyle Neptune stands on the side of the Madison Square Garden court. He’s spent the morning sitting at a chair next to his players, dealing with a throng of reporters. When he stands up, he’s ushered to a desk for a TV interview, and now that that’s finished, he’s waiting for a podcast to be ready for him to go on.

He’s been on this schedule for months now. Everyone asks the same thing.

“Some sort of Jay Wright question,” Neptune says, “in terms of what it’s like to follow him, what are you going to be like. Some sort of remix of that question.”

Neptune has the unenviable task of replacing someone who outgrew his role to the point where his name is synonymous with the school itself. Wright was Villanova, and now, Wright’s not here anymore.

“I never focused on not being him,” Neptune said in early October. He’s not Jay Wright, and doesn’t claim to be. Yet at the same time, Neptune sees Wright as one of the most influential people in his life. Nearly everything Neptune has learned as a coach was from Wright, and his main goal as Villanova’s head coach isn’t to build something new, but instead, continue what Wright has built.

Neptune isn’t trying to be Wright. Of course, if it somehow happens, Neptune wouldn’t mind.

“He was a Hall of Famer, to me, the best coach in college basketball the last ten years,” Neptune said. “I would like to be a lot like him.”


The Kyle Neptune story began a little less than six miles from the MSG court, in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn. He was born to immigrant parents, his mother from Trinidad, his dad from Guyana, and they taught him many things, but none were more important than the importance of hard work and education.

Neptune’s love of basketball quickly made itself known. He played on an AAU travel ball team of kids from Brooklyn, where he wasn’t the star, but one of many quality players. 

For middle and high school, Neptune attended a small private school called Brooklyn Friends. While he wasn’t the star in AAU, he was at Brooklyn Friends, scoring the most points in school history and leading the team to a state title.

That title helped open doors, allowing Neptune to move on and play at Lehigh. Neptune came off the bench for the first two years with the Mountain Hawks, but started 30 of 31 games and averaged 11.1 points per game as a junior. 

In college, Neptune was dedicated to basketball yet describes his lifestyle as “pretty much like any college kid.” He majored in journalism and wrote for his college newspaper, but his number one focus was his sport. 

“Got up probably late, slept in a lot, watched a lot of TV,” Neptune said. “I was definitely in the gym a lot. I loved being in the gym, loved trying to get better. I was pretty much like any other college athlete who slept in a lot.”

Neptune played briefly overseas, but realized his basketball future would come in coaching.

“As most players, you all still hold out hope that you can play at the highest level,” Neptune said. “And I was no different. I grew up wanting to be Michael Jordan and play in the NBA and play in the Garden and do all that stuff. At some point you start to realize, alright, maybe that’s not gonna be my path.” 

Through shared connections, Neptune was hired as a video assistant at Villanova in 2008. He went to the Final Four in his first season and was “hooked.” After two years in the role, where Neptune built a reputation for the depth of his scouting, he was hired as an assistant at Niagara. Neptune spent three years in upstate New York before rejoining Wright’s staff as a full assistant in 2013.

From 2013 to 2020, Neptune fully indoctrinated himself in the Villanova way, winning two national titles and six Big East crowns with Wright. When Fordham came calling in 2021, Neptune was ready to build his own program.

At Fordham, Neptune inherited a program that went 2-12 the year before and then proceeded to lose most of its players. He rebuilt the staff and hit the transfer portal, adding nine new faces, then led the Rams to a 16-16 record. A .500 mark is a far cry from Villanova’s lofty standards, but for Fordham, it was just the second non-losing season since 2007.

When Fordham lost to Davidson in the A-10 quarterfinals in March, Neptune immediately started preparing for the next year. He was recruiting and making practice plans when he got a call from Villanova Director of Athletics Mark Jackson, checking his interest in Villanova’s job. Neptune assumed that Wright was just tired and would reconsider, as he’d threatened retirement before, but within hours, Neptune had signed a contract to be Villanova’s new head coach.

The task is monumental, but even at the press conference two days later, Neptune knew what his new position entailed.

“One of the things that Coach Wright always says (is that) everybody’s role is different, but everyone’s status is the same,” Neptune said. “My role now is just (to be) the standard bearer for Villanova basketball.”



Throughout the offseason, headlines have focused less on Neptune being the head coach, more that it’s no longer Wright. Yet a truth remains: apart from the man leading the line, not much has changed.

The immediate question was whether the players would stay the same, and apart from Bryan Antoine’s transfer to Radford (expected even before Wright’s retirement), every player returned. Even the recruits, all of whom committed to play under Wright, decided to stay for Neptune as well.

“He’s keeping the Villanova way,” freshman guard Brendan Hausen said. “The tradition in the locker room, he’s passing down to our captains. As a team, everyone’s on the same page.”

Many have looked for outward changes in the program, yet again, all seems the same as it was under Wright. 

“(The transition’s) been smooth so far,” senior guard Justin Moore. “Just watching Coach Wright, I think (Neptune’s) taken great steps in that aspect, learning from him.” 

In early October at Media Day, Villanova hosted a brief open practice, showcasing its players before the upcoming season. The team shot free throws and used shot fakes and bounce passes to create easy opportunities, just as they had demonstrated at Wright’s Media Day the year before. The team broke the practice with “Attitude” on three, just as they had before.

The interview answers are the same, the values are the same, the wristbands each player wears are the same. And that’s just the way Neptune likes it.

Neptune’s attacked every task with fervor. He’s hit the road recruiting, led practices with intensity he’s learned from Wright (albeit reportedly with less swearing), and shown up at public appearances representing both Villanova the university and Villanova the basketball team. He doesn’t take time off, but he’s enjoying the challenge.

“You get some free time, but we love this,” Neptune said. “I think most coaches would agree. I don’t think this is something we have to do, it’s something we love doing. Anytime I could be around the game recruiting or making recruiting calls or watching film, I don’t look at that as a job. I look at that as something I get to do every day.”


While Neptune has done all he can, passing every preseason test and answering every question with polish, regardless of how many times he’s been asked them, there is one thing he hasn’t done.

Neptune hasn’t won a basketball game at Villanova.

Because of this, and the fact that he hasn’t won a Big East road trip, or cut down the nets at MSG or Houston or San Antonio, he’s still not yet seen as the Villanova head coach.

He’s seen as the guy who replaced Jay Wright.

Of course, Neptune says he doesn’t see it that way, but for now, it’s the truth. When your predecessor catapults a team from one of the better teams in its conference to Blue Blood conversations, it’s only natural that the beginning of his time in charge is currently seen as the post-Wright Era instead of the Neptune era.

“I truly don’t look at it like that out of respect for Coach Wright,” Neptune said. “He deserves a lot of praise. You look back to what he did and what he went through building this program up until what it is now. I will always say this, for the last 10 years, I think he’s the best college basketball coach.”

Now comes the hard part. Come November 7th and a matchup with La Salle, it’ll finally be time for Neptune to lead the ‘Cats into a game that matters.

As he stands off to the side of the Madison Square Garden court, answering the same questions yet again for one of the final times before the season kicks off, Neptune emphasizes his Villanova ties once more.

“I’m uniquely a Villanova person,” Neptune said. “I really look at it like I grew up here as a man. I’ve matured here as a coach. And I’m excited to be back here as the head coach.”

And with that, a handshake and a smile, Neptune turns and walks off the court. Yes, he’s got a train to catch. And sure, he’s got a basketball team to coach. 

But more importantly, he’s got an era to begin.