Anders Said It: Give Neptune a Chance


Olivia Pasquale/Villanovan Photography

Kyle Neptune (above) is in his first season as head coach at Villanova.

Anders Pryor, Sports Columnist

Villanova, its students, the administration, the alumni and the world of sports didn’t have time to fully brace for the retirement of Jay Wright. Now, everyone is experiencing withdrawal symptoms and is desperately trying to cling to his past contributions to the basketball program as much as they can. The biggest way they’ve done this is through new head coach Kyle Neptune — who he is and who he isn’t. Villanova needs to view Neptune as the new head coach of Villanova basketball rather than a former assistant of Wright who got promoted. 

We’ve seen many instances of “blue-blood” programs bringing an in-house candidate into the available head coach position after its teams have been run by one person for so long in order to maintain a similar sense of culture and tradition. After decades of being led by Roy Williams, North Carolina promoted nine-year assistant Hubert Davis into the role of head coach, and the Tar Heels made an appearance in the national championship game in his first year, this past season. When long-time Duke head coach and basketball mogul Mike Krzyzewski ended his legendary tenure, associate head coach and former player — someone who Duke students know well — Jon Scheyer was named the replacement and has entered his first year as head coach. 

Villanova’s hiring of Neptune is a similar practice. Neptune was an assistant with the Wildcats from 2013-2021 and spent last season as the head coach of Fordham in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Yet, his familiarity with the “Villanova basketball” made him an easy candidate to be the next head coach on the Main Line.

Many students believe that any judgements on Neptune, related to Wright or not, should be stalled in order to give him a real chance. 

“It’s too soon to compare how Neptune will run the team versus Wright,” sophomore Carter Smith said. “This year’s team is more well-rounded compared to last year’s, and I only hope that Neptune plays more of his bench during the season so we can count on them when it matters.” 

“We may be too quick to assume things will remain exactly the same in the Neptune era as they did during Jay Wright’s tenure,” junior Joe Coyne said. “While it seems that a lot of the tradition and legacy of Villanova basketball will remain intact, Kyle Neptune will most likely want to create his own stamp on the program. This will take a few seasons before we see visible changes though, so it is too soon to compare the two coaches.

But many students also understand that Wright’s impact on the program is permanent and everlasting. He doesn’t need to be present in order for his legacy to have its effect and that who Neptune is as a coach is defined more by the culture and less by who or what he proceeded. 

“[Kyle Neptune] gained much wisdom of the system Coach Wright employs, and much that will carry over, as evidenced by the open practice at Media Day where the team still shot free throws, bounced passes for open shots, and harped on ‘Attitude,’” said senior and sports staff writer Jacob Artz. “He will run the Villanova way in the fashion he sees fit, and to compare Neptune to the Coach of the Decade in Wright is not fair.”

“As much as Jay Wright did for our school, it’s about the program and legacy he left behind,” senior Anthony Bibbo said. “Coach Wright would never want it to be all about him. Someone took a chance on him when he came here in 2001, and now it’s time we do the same for Kyle Neptune. Our three new recruits understandably came in thinking they were playing for Jay…but they stayed to play for Kyle. That speaks volumes to me that they really want to be here.”

It’s important to understand that Neptune is his own man and not just an extension of Wright. And that can be said in two ways. One, the offense might look similar and different at the same time. I’m sure we’ll see the classic 1-2-2 zone, half court press or pump-fake into a dribble up and pass onto the perimeter we always saw under Wright. But the location of the last pass or number of fakes might change. We also may get a different style of press conferences. Maybe not as many “40 minutes of Villanova basketball” soundbites. The suits might not be as sharp or have as many layers. The yelling and barking on the sideline will be different. Hearing “Kyle Neptune” on the large speaker when the roster is introduced will take some time to get used to as well. It’ll be an adjustment process that won’t be completed overnight. 

But Neptune knows he’s his own man. He’s ready to embrace that, despite still wanting to be true to the culture that brought him to this point.

“I never focused on not being him,” Neptune said in early October. “He’s a Hall of Famer, to me, the best coach in college basketball the last 10 years. I would like to be a lot like him.”

We as a student body should give Neptune the breathing room he needs to be his most authentic self as a coach so he can put this new era of Villanova basketball in the best position to succeed. It’s okay to hold Neptune to the same standard of success as Wright, but putting them side by side as if they’re the same person is not fair to Neptune or to the natural evolution of the basketball program.