Hall of Fame coach Jay Wright has announced his retirement after 21 seasons as Villanova’s men’s basketball coach.
The Wildcats said Wednesday that Wright will begin a new role as special assistant to the president, and that Kyle Neptune of Fordham, who spent 10 years under Wright as video coordinator and assistant coach, will take over as Villanova’s head coach.
A press conference featuring Wright, Neptune, Vice President and Athletics Director Mark Jackson will be held Friday morning.
“For the past 21 seasons, I’ve had the opportunity to live out a professional dream as head coach at Villanova,” Wright wrote in a prepared statement. “Batty and I have had the privilege of working with amazing, talented young men who have allowed us to coach them and brought us unparalleled 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 during the reigns of Father Peter and Mark Jackson. .
“Now, though, is the time to usher in a new era of basketball for Villanova. After 35 years in coaching, I am proud and excited to hand the reins to Villanova’s next coach. I am excited to stay a part of Villanova and look forward to working with father Peter and Mark And the rest of the leadership team. Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat.”
Wright, 60, has been the Wildcats’ head coach since 2001. He won two national championships, in 2016 and 18, and played four games in the Final Four, including one last season. He was named Naismith Coach of the Year in 2006 and 16, and was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021.
Wright has been solicited for numerous jobs in the NBA over the years, but sources told ESPN on Wednesday that Wright’s intention is to retire from coaching, not just Villanova. Wright has enjoyed his experience coaching Team USA under Greg Popovich in recent years, but being an NBA coach has been less attractive with him, sources said. He listened to the offers but did not seriously consider leaving Vilanova for any of them.
Wright began sharing with his close friends Tuesday night that he is eager to move into the next phase of his life without training, according to sources.
“He is completely at peace with the decision,” a source close to Wright told ESPN Wednesday night.
Neptune, 37, was Fordham’s head coach for one season. He led the Rams to a 16-16 campaign, an improvement by 14 wins in the 2020-21 season.
Neptune worked as a video coordinator for Vilanova from 2008-10 and then returned as an assistant coach under Wright from 2013-20.
“When we look 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,” Jackson said. “After meeting with several exceptional candidates, we found all of these traits and more in Kyle Neptune. Kyle quickly emerged for his knowledge of basketball, an intelligent recruit and a natural ability to connect with student-athletes and coaches.”
The news of Wright’s retirement sent shock waves through the college basketball world, with Wright being among the most respected coaches. With Mike Krzyzewski recently retired, Wright was one of only three active coaches to win multiple National titles. (Bill Self and Rick Pettino are the other two.)
“It’s a huge loss for college basketball,” Syracuse coach Jim Boheim told ESPN, adding that Wright is “definitely” one of the best coaches of the modern era.
Boeheim was among several coaches contacted by ESPN who were stunned by the news. Notre Dame coach Mike Brey said he was also surprised.
“He really hit it all and did it all with the class,” Brie told ESPN. “It’s a huge loss to the college game.”
Wright’s victories, titles and achievements speak for themselves. But the subject of the sport on Wednesday was the way Wright treated himself.
“I’ve known Jay throughout his coaching career,” former Big East commissioner Mike Trangese told ESPN. “He’s a great coach, but he’s a better person.”
Former Villanova player and assistant coach Baker Dunleavy echoed the idea, saying that Wright’s legacy and his work at Villanova will reverberate through all of the players and coaches he has worked with.
“Coach Wright’s true legacy will not be his championships,” said Dunleavy, now head coach at Quinnipiac University. “His legacy is the set of values he instilled in his coaches and players. These are evident while watching the Villanova match – and most importantly meeting a player at Vilanova. For him this is the most important mark he can leave. We are all proud to be associated with him.”
Wright went 520-197 during his 21 seasons with the Wildcats, winning no fewer than 30 games on six occasions, the sixth most 30-win season in men’s Division I history. He won eight Big East regular season titles and five Big East Conference Championships.
Prior to coaching Villanova, Wright was Hofstra coach for seven seasons, winning two Eastern American Championships and playing two NCAA games.
ESPN’s Pete Tamil and Adrian Vojnarowski contributed to this report.
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