VILLANOVA, Pa. (CBS) — The Jay Wright era in Villanova has come to an end. Wright announced on Twitter Wednesday night that he was stepping down as head coach of the Wildcats after 21 seasons.
“After 35 years of coaching, I am proud and excited to hand over the reins to Villanova’s next coach. I am delighted to be part of Villanova and look forward to working with Father Peter, Mark and the rest of the leadership team. Once a feral cat, always a feral cat,” Wright said in a statement.
— Jay Wright (@VUCoachJWright) April 21, 2022
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Villanova hired Fordham head coach Kyle Neptune to replace Wright.
Welcome home! @kyleneptune has been named the new William B. Finneran Endowed Villanova Men’s Basketball Head Coach.
— Villanova MBB (@NovaMBB) April 21, 2022
It’s only been a few weeks since the Villanova Wildcats knocked on the doorstep of a third national championship under Wright, making Wednesday’s announcement of retirement all the more shocking.
Wright took over as head coach from Villanova in 2001 and led the Wildcats to two National Championships, four Final Four appearances and 16 NCAA Tournament appearances. The 60-year-old was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame last year.
During his 21-year tenure as ‘Nova’s head coach, Wright won 520 games with a 0.725 win rate. The Wildcats were 30-8 in 2022 and made it to the Final Four as a 2-cot before losing 81-65 to the highest seeded Kansas Jayhawks. Wright also recorded 16 20 win seasons and was named National Coach of the Year in 2006 and 2016.
“Thank you, Coach, for all you have done for our university, community and the game of basketball,” Villanova’s men’s basketball program wrote on Twitter.
And at age 60, you could argue that Wright runs away with something left in the tank.
News of Wright’s retirement sent shockwaves through college basketball, including his friend and former Big 5 rival, Phil Martelli, who is now an associate head coach at the University of Michigan.
“He’s the living definition of what a coach is,” said Martelli, the former St. Joseph’s University coach. “A coach has to coach. A coach has to recruit. A coach should represent his school as well as possible. Jay Wright did all those things.”
After 21 seasons as leader of Villanova Men’s Basketball, Coach Wright announces his retirement.
Thank you, Coach, for all you have done for our university, community and the game of basketball.
We are delighted that you continue to be part of the VU community. pic.twitter.com/HGjitFaOUm
— Villanova MBB (@NovaMBB) April 21, 2022
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Neptune’s coaching career began in 2008 under Wright, as a video coordinator for the Wildcats. He was also part of the staff of Villanova’s Final Four appearance in 2009 before leaving Niagara as an assistant coach for three seasons.
Neptune returned to Villanova in 2013 and served as Wright’s assistant to the staff before being named Fordham head coach in 2021. Fordham finished 16-16 in Neptunus’ lone season as head coach.
After one season, Neptune returns to Villanova and takes over from Wright.
“As we searched for a successor, we wanted a candidate who can navigate the changing landscape of collegiate athletics and keep Villanova in a strong position — now and into the future,” said Villanova president Rev. Peter Donahue and director of athletics Mark Jackson in a joint statement. “After meeting some exceptional candidates, we found all those attributes and more in Kyle Neptune. Kyle quickly stood out for his basketball knowledge, recruiting smart and natural skills to connect with student athletes and coaches.”
Neptunus will be introduced as Villanova’s head coach during a press conference at 10:00 AM on Friday. Villanova says Wright will also attend.
There has been much speculation about Wright’s future. Will he retire? Will he try to jump to the NBA?
Time will tell.
For now, Villanova has appointed Wright as a special assistant to the president of the university.
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Ross DiMattei of CBS3 contributed to this story.