Jay Wright Steps Down After 21 Years at Villanova

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Hall of Fame coach Jay Wright is retiring after 21 seasons coaching men’s basketball at Villanova University, he announced Wednesday.

Hall of Fame coach Jay Wright is retiring after 21 seasons coaching men’s basketball at Villanova University, he announced Wednesday.

The University stated that Wright will take on a new role as a special assistant to the school’s president, Peter M. Donohue. Fordham head coach and 10-year assistant to Wright, Kyle Neptune, will soon be unveiled as the new coach of the Wildcats.

Wright, Neptune, and athletic director Mark Jackson are slated to host a press conference Friday morning.

Jay Wright retires from coaching

Jay Wright is one of the most well-respected coaches in basketball. He is class personified and seems to always have his teams playing their best basketball at the right time of year, regardless of injury or circumstance.

Wright broke through for the first time in 2016, his first of two national titles, when a Kris Jenkins buzzer-beater three helped Nova beat the University of North Carolina 77-74. Wright memorably turned away without a flash of an expression like it was another day at the office.

Wright might not have shown much emotion during the historic shot, but he did become vulnerable in a statement released Wednesday informing the world of his retirement. 

“Over the past 21 seasons, I have had the opportunity to live out a professional dream as the head coach at Villanova,” Wright said. “Patty and I have been blessed to work with incredible, gifted young men who allowed us to coach them and brought us unmatched joy. We cannot overstate our gratitude to the players, coaches, and administrators who have been with us on this path. It has been an honor and a privilege to work at Villanova, especially under Father Peter and Mark Jackson.”

“Now, though, it’s time for us to enter a new era of Villanova basketball. After 35 years in coaching, I am proud and excited to hand over the reins to Villanova’s next coach. I am excited to remain a part of Villanova and look forward to working with Father Peter, Mark and the rest of the leadership team. Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat.”

The future of Villanova

60-year-old Jay Wright had been the head of Nova’s basketball department since 2001; he led successful March Madness campaigns in 2016 and 2018 and was eliminated in the Final Four in his most recent appearance this year. He was also named Naismith Coach of the Year in 2006 and 2016 and inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021.

Wright had been sought after by professional teams, although he never expressed any serious interest in making the jump to the professional game. His interest reportedly waned even further in recent years despite his time with Gregg Popovich on the Team USA staff.

Reports of Wright’s decision leaked shortly before his statement was released; one said that Wright was “fully at peace with the decision.

His new replacement, 37-year-old Kyle Neptune, led Fordham to a 16-16 season in 2021-22, a 14-win improvement on their previous campaign. He was a video coordinator at Villanova from 2008 to 2010 and served as an assistant coach from 2013 to 2020.

“When looking for a successor, we wanted a candidate who could navigate the changing landscape of collegiate athletics and keep Villanova in a position of strength — now and in the future,” AD Mark Jackson said. “After meeting with several exceptional candidates, we found all those attributes and more in Kyle Neptune. Kyle quickly stood out for his basketball knowledge, recruiting savvy and natural ability to connect with student-athletes and coaches.”

Wright’s retirement means that there are now only two active coaches with multiple national titles: Rick Pitino and Bill Self. He also joins a list of legendary coaches to recently step away from the game, headed by Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski.

Wright leaves Villanova with a 520-197 career record, eight Big East regular-season titles and five Big East Conference Tournament championships. Before that, he claimed America East championships in seven seasons with Hofstra.

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