The Villanova Wildcats sparked headlines across the nation with their run through the NCAA basketball tournament, which concluded with a national title after their 77-74 victory over North Carolina on April 4. Leading the Wildcats was someone with deep roots to the University, Jay Wright ’83.
Wright has been the head coach at Villanova for 15 years, leading the squad to 354 wins and 11 appearances in the NCAA tournament. In addition to winning the 2015-16 national championship, Wright was also honored with the Naismith Men’s College Coach of the Year Award for the second time in his career. Before his coaching tenure, Wright was raised in Bucks County, Pa. and played on the varsity men’s basketball team at the University under Bison head coach Charlie Woollum.
Wright’s experiences from playing at the University and coaching at Hofstra have allowed him to push his Villanova student-athletes as far as they can go when playing in March. In his more than 30 years of coaching at different positions at different universities, Wright has also competed against the best coaches at the collegiate level.
Wright began his coaching career as an assistant at Division III University of Rochester. He then climbed up to Division I, where he worked as an assistant at Drexel, Villanova, and UNLV. In 1994, Wright was hired as the head coach at Hofstra, where he revitalized the program in seven years and won the America East Conference tournament in his final two years at the school.
Since the 2001-2002 season, Wright has led the Villanova Wildcats in an ever-changing Big East conference with unprecedented success.
This year’s championship run with Villanova included six victories in the March Madness tourney. Entering as the No. 2 seed in the South Region, the Wildcats defeated UNC Asheville, Iowa, and Miami, all by at least 19 points, before disposing of the top overall seed Kansas in the Elite Eight. The Wildcats were then able to earn the largest margin of victory in a Final Four game when they defeated Oklahoma 95-51.
The national championship appearance was the first for Wright in his coaching career, and the first for Villanova since it won the title in 1985 as a No. 8 seed. This time, Wright went up against Roy Williams and North Carolina in the championship game. With a three-pointer by Villanova’s Kris Jenkins to win the game right as time expired, Wright and his team were able to bring home the championship trophy after one of the most exhilarating tournament games.
Wright has been working toward the goal of a national championship throughout his entire career, but he is always one to recognize the performance of others along the way. Following the victory, he commended Williams and his Tar Heel squad for what they achieved in the tournament, as well as the effort and support brought by the players, coaching staff, and fans of Villanova.
As a University alum, Wright has traveled far in achieving his well-deserved position in the national spotlight, and he will be aiming to repeat as national champions again once the 2016-17 season rolls around in November.