While there were certainly examples of elite college coaches making the jump to the NBA in the past, with John Calipari, Rick Pitino and Lon Kruger all doing so, their lack of success resulting in that chatter dying down some. But that’s changed in recent years, with Billy Donovan performing well in Oklahoma City and Brad Stevens doing the same in Boston.
One name that’s come up has been that of Villanova head coach Jay Wright, who eight days ago led the Wildcats to their second national title in three years. Some may see the run of success as a chance to look for a different challenge but that isn’t the case for Wright. In an interview with Dana O’Neil of The Athletic, Wright said that he isn’t willing to mess with happiness.
“The NBA does intrigue me,” Wright told O’Neil. “That challenge is appealing, but it’s not worth giving up working with these guys. The whole thing is, to take a new challenge you have to give up what you have. I don’t want to give up what I have. Would I like to coach in the NBA? Yes. But I have to give this up in order to do that, and I don’t see that happening.”
After experiencing a down period in the aftermath of the Final Four run in 2009, Wright and Villanova managed to begin the turnaround with a 2012 recruiting class headlined by Ryan Arcidiacono and Daniel Ochefu. While the program also had to navigate external changes due to conference realignment earlier this decade, establishing and sticking to what it aimed to be as a program had the greatest effect on Wright’s program.
Villanova will have to account for some key personnel losses this offseason, with Mikal Bridges already headed to the NBA, Jalen Brunson possibly joining him and Donte DiVincenzo and Omari Spellman having decisions to make as well. But some contributors from this year’s team will be back, led by guard Phil Booth, and Villanova adds one of the nation’s top recruiting classes as well.
Villanova’s got it rolling right now, and it’s understandable that Wright would see no reason to walk away right now.