Saturday, April 13

Villanova coach Jay Wright retires: Two-time national champion leaves Wildcats after 21 seasons

In a shocking decision that will reverberate around college sports, longtime Villanova men’s basketball coach Jay Wright, 60, has decided to retire after 21 years of leading the Wildcats, sources told CBS Sports on Wednesday. Wright, who led Villanova to a pair of national championships, called an impromptu meeting with his team to share the news of his retirement.

During that meeting, Wright shared that Fordham coach Kyle Neptune will replace him in leading the Villanova program, sources told CBS Sports. Neptune was an assistant under Wright from 2013-21.

Wright, already a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, began seriously mulling his retirement throughout this past season, a source said. He moved closer to his decision in March. In recent weeks, Villanova power brokers had discussions with Wright see if the coach would change his mind.

Fresh off his fourth Final Four appearance, Wright is deciding to walk away from the grind of college basketball. Privately, he has shared frustrations with some of the significant changes with the way the sport operates. He’s also gone through some understandable burnout with the grind of the job, one source said. 

Villanova has been one of college basketball’s premier programs, ascending to elite status under Wright across the past decade. The Wildcats won national championships in 2016 and 2018 while also advancing to the Final Four in 2009 and 2022. Nova has played in the NCAA Tournament in 16 of the last 17 seasons the event was held, only missing the postseason entirely once in 2012.

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Wright ends his career a 642-282 record combining 21 seasons at Villanova with seven at Hofstra where he went 122-85 with a 50-12 record and two NCAA Tournament appearances in his final two campaigns.

The two-time Naismith Coach of the Year and six-time Big East Coach of the Year finished 520-197 at Villanova as the program lorded over its conference. The Wildcats won eight Big East regular-season championships (seven in the last nine seasons) and five Big East Tournament titles while receiving a top-three seed in the NCAA Tournament nine times since 2009.

Why now?

With Wright pondering retirement for a considerable length of time, rumblings of a forthcoming decision began getting loose and loud earlier Wednesday. Rather than allow those to take hold, Wright promptly called a meeting with the team — ahead of an end-of-season banquet scheduled for Thursday night — to make the announcement, sources told CBS Sports.

His retirement decision is not health related but rather a case of him being ready to take a break from coaching, sources said. A combination of burnout and a career filled with substantial success created a scenario in which there is nothing left for Wright to prove.

Will the NBA come calling?

It might, but Wright has no intention of coaching in the NBA. It would be genuinely surprising to see him ever do so at this stage of his life, a source told CBS Sports. That source added: “He got his taste with the Olympics and said he could never, ever coach those guys for 82 games.”

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