Jay to the NBA? Relax. He’s staying.



Michael Bradley

It’s the logical next step, isn’t it? Jay Wright has won it all, done it all. Monday’s win over North Carolina secured his status among college basketball’s best. There are 11 active coaches with national titles on their resumes, and Wright is one of them. He has lifted Villanova from the Big East’s fledgling second iteration to the top of the college game, and that kind of accomplishment deserves a big reward. 

Like the NBA.

To some, it’s the logical next step. Conquer Kids World and move on to the grown-up table. We all know that coaches are fiercely competitive, and can there be anything more challenging than compelling a bunch of highly paid professionals to play the kind of team basketball necessary to win the championship? In the past few years, Brad Stevens left Butler for the Celtics, Billy Donovan went from Florida to Oklahoma City, and Fred Hoiberg landed in Indy after building the Iowa State program. 

It only makes sense that Wright is the next one to go. 

Last year, Michigan State coach Tom Izzo told me that even though life in the NBA, with the brutal travel, ridiculous player egos, off-court drama and grueling schedule may turn coaches into zombies from November into May (if they make the playoffs), they at least get a few months to decompress and revive their battered minds and bodies. College coaches have to worry about year-round recruiting, academic issues and the capricious nature of young adults’ behavioral patterns. No one in the NBA worries about mid-term exams. Oh, and the money is pretty good, too. For instance, Donovan is getting $6 million a year in OKC. That’s more than double Wright’s annual salary. And what’s the worst that can happen? Wright would get fired, collect his total contract value and head back to college, where he would likely have his choice of several big-time jobs.


Don’t worry. It’s not going to happen. Wright has a great thing going at Villanova. He grew up in the area. His wife, Patty, is a Wildcat alumna. Their daughter will be a senior in high school in the fall, and removing her from the school to which she has gone since Kindergarten wouldn’t be too popular at home. The roots are deep. Moving on would entail too much of a culture change. 

And where would he go, anyway? The Lakers might be looking for a new coach, but why would anybody want to wade into the mess caused by D’Angelo Russell’s Candid Camera debacle? Maybe LA gets Kevin Durant to hit the coast this summer in free agency, but there is no guarantee the team will surround him with what he needs to win. 

How about Brooklyn? That makes no sense. The Nets don’t have a draft choice until about 2020, and the roster is bloated with ugly contracts and stagnant talent. Owner Mikhail Prokhorov may be worth $9 billion, but running a successful NBA team is a lot different than swindling hapless Russian bureaucrats out of mineral rights to build a fortune. The Timberwolves might be getting rid of interim coach Sam Mitchell, but does Wright really want to coach in a town where pro ball is fifth, behind football, hockey, baseball and ice fishing? No way.

Phoenix? That place is a mess, even if it is a dry heat. Milwaukee, Orlando, New Orleans, Denver? No, no, no and no.

Which leaves Philadelphia. There are rumors that Brett Brown may be heading for the door after this season, since “advisor” Jerry Colangelo is a former Phoenix honcho and the Suns people don’t get along with current or former Spurs types. (Brown is a former San Antonio assistant.) Maybe Colangelo convinces owner Josh Harris to back a Brink’s truck up to Wright’s house and instruct the driver to keep unloading millions until Wright says yes. That’s the only real threat here. But Wright turned down the Sixers once, and the thought of slogging back to respectability, especially when ‘Nova will have so much talent and depth on the roster next year, could well be too much to bear. 

Nope, the NBA isn’t a big threat to Villanova basketball, although AD Mark Jackson would do well to cash in some returnable bottles and check the couch cushions in his office for some extra change, the better to make Wright’s bottom line a little more robust. And get busy with that renovation of the Pavilion. The program needs a modern home. Find a corporate sponsor for it, but slap Wright and Rollie’s names on the court. That ought to make Wright smile.

With prosperity comes some risk, but in this case, ‘Nova fans shouldn’t worry. Wright has been a Wildcat for 15 years, and he will be around for several more seasons. 

    As it should be.


Photo courtesy of Fansided.com