Kyle Neptune Wins First Game at Madison Square Garden


Graydon Paul/Villanovan Photography

While often animated, Kyle Neptune was more emotional than usual in his first game at Madison Square Garden.

Colin Beazley, Co-Editor-in-Chief

NEW YORK — Kyle Neptune grew up just six miles away from Madison Square Garden. Raised in the Clinton Hill neighborhood of Brooklyn, Neptune dreamed of playing in the arena.

Friday night was his first time as a head coach in Madison Square Garden. It was nothing if not memorable.

Neptune’s team won, 57-49, over St John’s, but the performance was far from pretty. The Wildcats committed 16 turnovers and shot just 36.5% from the field, yet improved their record to 10-10. 

However, Neptune was less than happy with the performance. He spent much of the game steaming on the sidelines, especially after receiving a technical foul early in the second half.

“Was I [angry]? I didn’t…” he asked, sarcastically.

The technical foul was Neptune’s first as Villanova head coach, but not his first as a head coach.

“I got a technical foul in Florida as the coach at Fordham, so I’m well versed with technicals,” Neptune said. “… He called it, so it’s a technical foul.”

The first-year Villanova head coach’s displeasure with more than just the referees was often clear. After the tech, Neptune clapped in fury, as Villanova players often do after calls they disagree with. He then spent the next minutes pacing, attempting to calm himself down. Portions of the final 15 minutes were spent standing still, staring with crossed arms.

“It’s an emotional game,” Neptune said. “We’re just trying to make sure our guys continue to play hard. I thought the refs did a good job tonight.”

It was a far from perfect performance for Villanova, but a win is a win. 

With the victory, Neptune improved his record in New York City to 11-7. He went 10-4 at home with Fordham last season, yet lost to St John’s at its Queens campus home of Carnesecca Arena, to Miami at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and to Manhattan in Riverdale. The loss to Manhattan was Neptune’s first loss as head coach.

Apart from being a win in his hometown, Friday had added personal significance for Neptune. He turns 39 on Saturday, so he will celebrate his birthday on the right side of the scoreboard.

While Friday was Neptune’s first time leading a team in the Garden, Villanova is hoping he’ll be a seasoned MSG veteran by the end of March. The Wildcats are guaranteed at least one more game in the arena, playing in the league’s championship tournament from March 8-11. 

The Wildcats are currently seventh in the Big East, which would earn a matchup on the tournament’s first day. Any chance at an at-large bid for the NCAA Tournament is fading fast, meaning the Wildcats will likely need to win four straight from Wednesday to Saturday to qualify.

Neptune now sports a 1-0 record in the World’s Most Famous Arena. While the win over St John’s was sloppy, it was still a win in Madison Square Garden.

For his first season to be a success, the Wildcats will need a few more.