James Bell scores 25 points and grabs 14 rebounds in victory.
Junior guard appeared in all 34 games for Wildcats in 2012-13
Guard appeared in 31 games as a reserve in 2012-13
Villanova dug its way out of a 20-point first half hole
Villanova has won seven of its last 11 games
Villanova vs. St. Joseph's (USATSI)
Villanova men's basketball vs. Iowa, Battle4Atlantis Championship, Paradise Island, Bahamas on Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013.
Villanova @ USC
Villanova fell to North Carolina 78-71 in the NCAA Tournament second round.
Villanova vs. St. John's - AP Photos
In a program long defined by achievement, Jay Wright has in his 12 seasons as head coach placed his own imprint of success on Wildcat basketball. Under his dynamic stewardship, which includes national and BIG EAST coaching awards, Villanova has re-established its place among the national elite.
After earning an at-large berth in the 2013 NCAA Tournament, Villanova has made eight such appearances in the last nine seasons. The Wildcats' 20 wins in 2012-13 also marked the eighth time in the last nine years that VU had posted 20 or more triumphs in a season. The Wildcats defeated three top five teams in the Associated Press poll in 2012-13. It was only the second time in school history that had happened.
Wright has now coached 401 games since taking over at Villanova in 2001, and the Wildcats have won 257 of them. In that stretch there have been 12 NCAA Tournament victories that have featured four trips to the NCAA Sweet 16, two visits to the NCAA Elite Eight and a berth in the 2009 NCAA Final Four in Detroit.
In BIG EAST regular season play, Wright has steered the Wildcats to 123 victories. That ties him for seventh place all-time in conference victories with his mentor, Rollie Massimino, and Louisville's Rick Pitino.
From 2004-2011, VU posted a record of 172-65 (.726). In that span it produced seven consecutive 20-win seasons for the first time in program history. The `Cats were 78-41 (.655) in BIG EAST regular season action in that span and appeared in seven straight NCAA Tournaments.
The Wildcats were ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 for 54 consecutive weeks over a period of three seasons from 2008-2011.
Villanova is 12-8 (.600) in NCAA Tournament play under Wright. Its pulsating 78-76 triumph over Pittsburgh in March of 2009 lifted the `Cats into the Final Four for the first time since the program captured the 1985 NCAA title under Massimino, for whom Wright served as a VU assistant coach from 1987-92. That victory over the Panthers was Wright's 300th as a head coach. He is 379-229 (.623) overall in 19 seasons as a head coach, including seven seasons at Hofstra University (1994-2001).
Wright owns a 257-144 (.641) record as head coach at Villanova and every one of his players who has spent four years in the program has earned his degree. Four Wildcats brought to Villanova by Wright - Randy Foye, Kyle Lowry, Dante Cunningham and Maalik Wayns - are now in the National Basketball Association. The Wildcats have won outright or shared six Philadelphia Big Five championships in Wright's 12 seasons and were the 2006 BIG EAST regular season champions.
The Wildcats' coach has collected a host of honors for his work, including the 2006 national coach of the year awards from CBS/Chevrolet, NABC, and Naismith. He was also the 2006 and 2009 BIG EAST Coach of the Year. In addition, he served as head coach of the gold medal winning US team at the 2005 World University Games and was also head coach of the USA team at the 2007 Pan American Games.
Three former assistant coaches who served under Wright are now Division I head coaches. That group includes Tom Pecora (Fordham), Patrick Chambers (Penn State) and Joe Jones (Boston University). Two other former aides, Brett Gunning (Orlando) and Ed Pinckney (Chicago) serve on National Basketball Association coaching staffs. In addition, former Wildcats Baker Dunleavy and Curtis Sumpter now serve on the Villanova staff.
From 2005-11, VU made seven consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament, winning 20 or more games in each of those campaigns. It marked only the second time in school history that the Wildcats had reached the NCAA Tournament in seven straight seasons.
This period also produced a trio of National Basketball Association draft choices (Dante Cunningham, Randy Foye and Kyle Lowry), six outright or shared Philadelphia Big Five crowns and a BIG EAST regular season championship (2006). Along the way, the Wildcats have maintained their impressive academic track record of graduating every student-athlete who has spent four years in the program.
There are no shortage of highlights from the Wright era to help offer encouragement.
In 2010-11, the Wildcats posted a 21-12 record and were a perfect 4-0 in the Philadelphia Big Five. Corey Fisher was named second team All-BIG EAST and Corey Stokes was tabbed third team All-BIG EAST. Villanova was ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 for 15 weeks.
With a roster featuring six first-year players in 2009-10, Villanova nonetheless was ranked in the top 10 of both the Associated Press and ESPN/USA Today Coaches polls every week of the regular season. Led by consensus first team All-American Scottie Reynolds, VU enjoyed the best start in school history, climbing as high as No. 2 in the polls in early February. The Wildcats finished in a tie for second in the BIG EAST regular season and earned a No. 2 seed in the Midwest Region of the NCAA Tournament, the second highest seed in the program's history, and finished with a 25-8 record.
The 2008-09 season will long be recalled as one of the most special years in the program's rich history. Backed by an experienced cast that included senior captains Dwayne Anderson, Shane Clark, Dante Cunningham and Reynolds, Villanova established a new single season record for victories with 30. It was ranked in the Associated Press top 25 every week of the season and posted a 13-5 mark in BIG EAST play. Cunningham was the BIG EAST's Most Improved Player and Corey Fisher its Sixth Man of the Year. Wright was selected as the conference's Coach of the Year.
After receiving a No. 3 seed in the East Region, the Wildcats rallied from a 14-point second half deficit to defeat upset-minded American in the first round before eliminating UCLA and Duke by 23 and 22 points respectively. Then came the epic battle with Pitt, which ended with a dramatic length of the floor drive and basket by Reynolds, giving the `Cats the East Regional crown and Wright his 300th career win (300-176). Villanova was then ousted by North Carolina at Ford Field, the fourth time in five seasons it was knocked out by the eventual champion.
In 2007-08 it was a tale of a young cast slowly acclimating itself to the rigors of BIG EAST basketball. With a roster devoid of seniors, the Wildcats endured growing pains as they acclimated themselves to the rigors of the BIG EAST Conference. In early February Villanova owned a 13-8 record and its post-season prospects appeared tenuous.
However, VU displayed the grit that has become such a staple of the program in the 21st century, picking up huge late season victories over West Virginia, Connecticut, Providence and Syracuse to gain an NCAA bid. Then, in another display of resiliency, the Wildcats rallied from an 18-point first half deficit to upset No. 5 seed Clemson in the opening round and followed that with a second round triumph over Siena before being eliminated by eventual champion Kansas.
It was just one more symbol of the vitality of Villanova basketball under Wright, who owns a 203-99 (.672) record as head coach of the Wildcats and a career mark of 325-184 (.639) in 15 seasons.
That strength showed itself in 2006-07 as well. Despite the loss of six seniors, including first round NBA draft choices Foye (Minnesota Timberwolves) and Lowry (Memphis Grizzlies), the Wildcats responded with a 22-11 effort, winning seven of their last nine regular season games to earn an at-large bid to the 2007 NCAA Tournament. The `Cats also extended their school record Philadelphia Big Five winning streak to 11 straight (it would ultimately reach 13 in a row) with a perfect 4-0 record against their City Series rivals and Reynolds joined Tim Thomas as the only Villanova players to earn BIG EAST Rookie of the Year honors.
In 2005-06, the Wildcats catalogued an impressive array of accomplishments despite the October loss of All-Big East forward Curtis Sumpter to season-ending knee surgery. Utilizing a four guard lineup, Villanova finished with 28 wins, to that point the most in school history, earning a share of the Big East Conference regular season title along the way. It spent the entire season ranked in the top 10 of both the Associated Press and USA Today/ESPN polls, climbing as high as No. 2 in February. The Wildcats were rewarded with the first NCAA Tournament No. 1 seed in the program's history and advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time since 1988.
There were plenty of individual highlights too. Foye was named a consensus first team All-American and a Wooden Award finalist as well as Big East player of the year. Senior Allan Ray was a consensus All-American, Naismith Award finalist and first team All Big East choice. Wright received national coach of the year honors from CBS/Chevrolet; the Naismith Awards; and the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC). The native of Churchville, Pa., was also named Big East Coach of the Year and earned the Harry Litwack Award as the Eastern College Coach of the Year from the Herb Good Club in Philadelphia.
In 2004-05, the Wildcats enjoyed a breakthrough campaign. The club overcame a host of significant injuries to emerge as a force in the BIG EAST Conference, recording six victories over nationally ranked teams. In its Big East opener, the Wildcats defeated No. 21 West Virginia 84-46. Three weeks later, on a snowy afternoon at the Wachovia Center, Villanova got America's attention with an 83-62 victory over No. 2 Kansas. In February, there were wins over No. 17 Pittsburgh and No. 3 Boston College in the Pavilion.
Villanova completed the regular season with a 21-6 record (.778), its best winning percentage since 1995-96. It was awarded the school's first NCAA Tournament bid since 1999 and came up with victories over Mountain West Tournament champion New Mexico and Southeastern Conference Tournament champion Florida to reach the regional semifinal.
Wright was named Philadelphia Big Five Eastern College Coach of the Year for his efforts in leading VU to a 24-8 mark in 2004-05.
It was a significant milepost in a cycle of growth spawned when Wright returned to the university he had first served as an assistant coach to Rollie Massimino from 1987-92. From the day of his arrival as head coach on March 27, 2001 Wright's agenda was clear.
"We want to build an attitude of playing hard and playing together and playing with great passion," he stated then. "Most importantly, we want our guys to play with a pride in representing Villanova."
Over the course of Wright's stint at the helm, those attributes have indeed defined Villanova basketball.
The first three seasons of Wright's head coaching tenure at Villanova offered snapshots of promise. In 2001-02, the Wildcats surprised observers by recording 19 victories, including a win over No. 16 UCLA, and reaching the quarterfinals of the National Invitation Tournament. The next two seasons were marked by peaks and valleys as a 2002 recruiting class ranked among the nation's best acclimated itself to college. Yet Villanova continued its postseason streak, earning NIT bids in both 2003 and 2004 while also reaching the Big East Tournament semifinals in 2004.
Under Wright, Villanova basketball has grown in other ways. One of Wright's first priorities was to reach out to former Wildcat players to insure that they are an active part of the program. Towards that end, Wright's staff hosts an annual golf outing and includes former players in the annual Men's Basketball Banquet, which was moved to the floor of the Pavilion in 2009 to accommodate the growing demand for tickets.
This marks Wright's second stint at Villanova. He served as an assistant to former head coach Rollie Massimino for five seasons before moving on to the University of Nevada- Las Vegas for two more years as an assistant coach from 1992-94.
In 1994, Wright landed his first head coaching position. Hofstra University hired him to breathe life into a program that had struggled through the late 1980s and into the early part of the 1990s. Piece by piece, Wright transformed the Pride into a potent force in the America East Conference. This period was capped by a three-year run, which concluded in 2001, that saw Hofstra post a 72-22 (.766) record and make a pair of NCAA Tournament appearances.
Wright earned America East Coach of the Year honors in both 1999-2000 and 2000-01. He was also tabbed Eastern Basketball's Coach of the Year in 1999-2000.
Seven of those young men Wright has tutored as a college head coach moved on to the National Basketball Association following their college careers. Cunningham became the No. 33 overall choice of the Portland Trail Blazers in 2009 and was traded to Charlotte during the 2010-11 campaign. Foye was taken with the seventh overall selection in the first round of the 2006 NBA Draft and spent the'09-10 season with Washington. Lowry was also selected in the first round of the 2006 draft by Memphis before being dealt to Houston, where he played in '09-10. Allan Ray spent the 2006-07 season with the Boston Celtics. Speedy Claxton, whom Wright coached at Hofstra, was a first round draft pick of Philadelphia in 2000 and enjoyed a 10-year NBA career while his former Pride teammate, Norman Richardson, spent time with Indiana. Maalik Wayns played with the Philadelphia 76ers and joined the Los Angeles Clippers in March 2013.
At Hofstra, Wright's teams improved on an annual basis, culminating in a 26-5 season of 2000-01. In each of Wright's last six seasons on Long Island, the team improved its victory total from the previous year. Under Wright's watch Claxton became only the second sophomore in school history to win America East Player of the Year honors and the Pride captured the first ECAC Holiday Festival in school history in 1998.
Academic success has been a key component of Wright's coaching career. Every player who has spent four years with Wright's programs at Villanova and Hofstra has earned his college degree.
Since becoming a head coach, Wright has also taken time out to work with USA Basketball. During the summer of 2010 he served with Washington's Lorenzo Romar as the co-coach of the USA Select Team, which scrimmaged against the USA National Team in advance of the World Championships. USA Basketball was so pleased with the initial week of work in Las Vegas that they brought Wright back to lead the Select Team during workouts in New York City for another session of scrimmages.
In August 2005 he served as head coach for the United States' entry in the World University Games which earned a gold medal. Team USA was dominant in amassing an 8-0 record by an average margin of victory of 29.9 points per game. For his efforts Wright was named USA Basketball Co-Developmental Coach of the Year. In the summer of 2007, he served as head coach of the United States' entry in the Pan American Games, leading the squad to a 3-2 record.
Wright spent five years on the Main Line as an assistant coach from 1987-92. He performed a wide range of assignments for Massimino, including scouting, on-court coaching and recruiting. During his time at Villanova the Wildcats made three NCAA Tournament appearances and reached the Elite Eight in 1988.
Wright's coaching career began in 1984 at the University of Rochester and he followed that with a season at Drexel (1985-86).
A 1983 graduate of Bucknell University with degrees in economics and sociology, Wright was a four-year letterman in basketball. He earned both the Benton A. Kribbs Most Valuable Player and the Macolm E. Musser Leadership Awards as an undergraduate. Following graduation, Wright worked as an administrative assistant with the Philadelphia Stars team that captured the 1984 United States Football League championship.
Since returning to Philadelphia over a decade ago, Wright has joined forces with his fellow Division I head coaches in the fight against cancer. Through the work of the head coaches at Drexel, La Salle, Penn, Saint Joseph's, Temple and Villanova, the Philadelphia chapter of Coaches vs. Cancer has become one of the top fundraising groups in the nation. In 2012, Wright was honored along with ESPN's Lou Holtz and former Maryland coach Gary Williams at the Dick Vitale Gala for his support of the V Foundation.
The product of Churchville, Pa., attended Council Rock High School. He is married to the former Patricia Reilly (Villanova class of 1983). The Wrights have two sons, Taylor (20), Collin (19), and a daughter, Reilly (14).