With 2 national titles in his suit pocket, Villanova’s Jay Wright retires

PHILADELPHIA CREAM – Jay Wright shocked college basketball on Wednesday night with his immediate resignation to Villanova, the Big East program he led to two national championships and four Final Fours in a Hall of Fame career.

Wright, 60, guided Villanova to titles in 2016 and 2018 and just led the Wildcats to the Final Four, where they lost to national champion Kansas. He went 520-197 in 21 school seasons and 642-282 overall, also coaching Hofstra from 1994 to 2001.

“It’s time for us to enter a new era of Villanova basketball,” Wright said in a statement. “After 35 years in coaching, I am proud and excited to hand over the reins to Villanova’s next coach. I am delighted to continue to be part of Villanova and look forward to working with (Villanova) and the rest of the management team.

Kyle Neptune, who was on Villanova’s coaching staff before accepting the head coaching job at Fordham in 2021, has returned to replace Wright.

“When we were 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,” said Villanova athletic director Mark Jackson. “After meeting with several exceptional candidates, we found all of these attributes and more in Kyle Neptune. Kyle quickly stood out for his knowledge of basketball, recruiting a savvy and natural ability to connect with student-athletes and coaches.

Wright’s decision was unexpected and there was no immediate word that the move was health-related or that he was leaving for the NBA. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021.

Wright will remain at Villanova and remain involved in fundraising, consulting, education and more.

He joined North Carolina’s Roy Williams and Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski as the third coach with multiple championships to retire in the past two years.

Prior to his arrival, Villanova was known for upsetting Georgetown in the 1985 National Championship Game and on occasional trips to the NCAA Tournament.

Wright needed three years to build a foundation before Villanova broke through with a trip to the 2005 Sweet 16. An Elite Eight appearance followed the following year and the Wildcats reached the Final Four in 2009.

Villanova won their first national title under Wright in 2016 on Kris Jenkins’ buzzer-beater and decimated the NCAA Tournament field in 2018, winning every game by double digits on their way to the national title.

He was selected AP Coach of the Decade in 2020.

Neptune, 37, was part of Wright’s squad for the 2009 Final Four squad. He went 16-16 in his only season at Fordham.

“I’m proud and excited to pass the baton to a member of our basketball family, Kyle Neptune. I’m thrilled to continue being a part of Villanova,” Wright said.

Wright’s decision comes after another successful season:

— He reached 25 or more wins for the 10th time in 22 seasons.

– The Wildcats have won a regular-season or playoff conference championship in each of the nine seasons since the Big East reconfiguration in 2013.

–The Wildcats earned a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the eighth time under Wright.

During Wright’s tenure, he coached several future NBA stars, including Kyle Lowry, Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges and Saddiq Bey.

“Ohhhhhhh this is hard!!! @kyleneptune WELL DESERVED,” Bridges, now a Phoenix Suns star, tweeted.

Wright was hired as a head coach at Hofstra and went 207-122 with two NCAA Tournament appearances in seven seasons. Hired in 2001 to replace Steve Lappas, the Wildcats went to the NIT in Wright’s first three seasons.

“Simply a remarkable career,” said former Villanova AD Vince Nicastro, who signed Wright. “Will be considered one of the best coaches in college basketball history – and even a better person. Won with integrity, class and grace. And served as a role model for his players and colleagues.”

The Wildcats finished 30-8 that season and Wright’s last game was an 81-65 loss to Kansas in the Final Four.

Wright, a native of Churchville, Pennsylvania, played college basketball at Bucknell and started as an assistant at Rochester and Drexel. He spent five seasons at Villanova as an assistant to Rollie Massimino, then followed him to UNLV for another two years before taking over as head coach at Hofstra in 1994.

He turned down many NBA and other college overtures over the years and remained true to his dedication to the Wildcats. Wright has coached teams at the Pan Am Games and World University Games; and served as an assistant coach under San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich for Team USA.

Wright was expected to discuss his decision at a press conference on Friday.

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