Former BIG EAST rivals to meet in South Philadelphia
Villanova vs. Syracuse (USATSI)
December 9, 2014
Villanova vs. La Salle men's basketball
NCAA Tournament Second Round Practice & Press Conference
Villanova vs. Seton Hall - USATSI Gallery
In a program long defined by achievement, Jay Wright has in his 13 seasons as head coach placed his own imprint of success on Villanova 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 2014 NCAA Tournament, Villanova has made nine such appearances in the last 10 seasons. The Wildcats earned the BIG EAST regular season championship in 2013-14 while establishing a new program for regular season victories en route to a 29-5 finish. Villanova was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament by Connecticut, the fifth time in the last 10 seasons it was defeated in the event by the eventual champion.
On Feb. 7, 2014, Wright recorded his 400th career victory with a triumph over Seton Hall at the Pavilion. Villanova entered the national rankings on Dec. 2, 2013 and remained there for the rest of the season, peaking at No. 3 during the final week of the regular season.
Wright was named the 2013-14 BIG EAST Coach of the Year, the third time he has been so honored since 2006. In addition, he was named Philadelphia Big 5 Coach of the Year. Darrun Hilliard and Daniel Ochefu shared the 2014 BIG EAST Most Improved award while James Bell was named first team All-BIG EAST and JayVaughn Pinkston second team All-BIG EAST.
Wright has now coached 435 games since taking over at Villanova in 2001, and the Wildcats have won 286 of them. In that stretch there have been 13 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 139 victories, including a program record 16 in 2013-14. The Wildcats are also 40-12 (.769) in Philadelphia Big Five play in his tenure.
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 13-9 (.591) 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 408-234 (.636) overall in 20 seasons as a head coach, including seven seasons at Hofstra University (1994-2001).
Wright owns a 286-149 (.657) record as head coach at Villanova and every one of his players who has spent four years in the program has earned his degree. Five Wildcats brought to Villanova by Wright - Randy Foye, Kyle Lowry, Allan Ray, Dante Cunningham and Maalik Wayns - have played in the National Basketball Association. Two of his players at Hofstra, Speedy Claxton and Norman Richardson, also logged time in the NBA.
Among other honors Wright has received include: 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.
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). Four other former aides, Brett Gunning (Orlando), Ed Pinckney (Chicago), Billy Lange (Philadelphia) and Curtis Sumpter (Philadelphia) serve on National Basketball Association coaching staffs. In addition, former Wildcat Baker Dunleavy serves as the Wildcats' associate head coach.
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.
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 2010 first team All-American Scottie 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 Speedy 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.
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'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, 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 (21), Collin (20), and a daughter, Reilly (15).