If you needed to rebuild a prominent basketball program, and could have your choice of any college coach in the nation, and you knew he would accept the job and stay in place for a long time … go ahead, name your coach.
It’s an easy answer for me. An easy pick.
Jay Wright, who just won his second national championship as coach at Villanova.
OK, why would I go with with Wright over, say, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski?
It’s based on age. Coach K is the No. 1 coach of the expansion era which began in 1985 when the NCAA Tournament grew to 64 teams. But Krzyzewski is 71. How many more years will he coach? Remember, the parameters of our dream-coach search include longevity.
Wright, still only 56, has many prime years left in his college-coaching career. He’s also demonstrated an ability to build a successful and sustainable program.
Here’s the case for Jay Wright, the best coach in the business right now. And the case for why he has the best program in the nation right now.
(Why the right now stuff? Because I’m not trying to compare Jay Wright’s coaching resume to John Wooden’s … or attempting to compare Villanova’s contemporary excellence to the longstanding empires at Kentucky, Duke, North Carolina, etc.)
We’re talking about right here, right now, and selecting a coach to lead your program over the next 10, 12, 15 years.
1. Villanova just finished a 36-4 season, closing it out by going 10-0 since the beginning of March, and winning those games by an average of 16.3 points. When the Wildcats trounced Michigan 79-62 in Monday’s national championship, it completed an unstoppable 6-0 run through the NCAA Tournament, winning by an average of 17.7 points. Villanova became the first team to win every game in March by double-digits since UCLA in 1967, and the first team since 2009 North Carolina to win each NCAA tournament game by 10+ points.
2. Villanova was No. 1 in the nation in offensive efficiency and No. 11 in defensive efficiency according to the Pomeroy ratings. The Wildcats became the first No. 1 offense to win a national title since North Carolina in 2009. But UNC’s defense wasn’t ranked as highly (19th) as Villanova’s.
3. Over last five seasons (starting in 2013-2014) Villanova leads D-1 teams with 165 wins (with only 21 losses) and an .877 winning percentage. ‘Nova’s record in Big East conference games over the last five seasons is 77-13 … 20 more wins than Xavier over that time. And Villanova won the Big East regular-season title four straight seasons through 2017, and won the Big East Tournament this year. Villanova’s NCAA Tournament record from the 2014 tourney through 2018 is 15-3.
4. Over this brilliant stretch (2014-18) Villanova has received three No. 1 seeds and two No. 2 seeds in the NCAA tournament, advanced to two Final Fours, and became only the second team to capture two national titles in three years or fewer since the turn of the century. (Florida won back-to-back championships in 2006 and 2007.)
5. The Wildcats have streaked off for four consecutive seasons of 30+ wins, averaging 34 victories per season. Their 136 wins over the last four seasons are the most victories by a team during a four-season stretch in NCAA basketball history.
6. Krzyzewski, Roy Williams and Tom Izzo have never had four straight 30-win seasons. Jim Boeheim, Rick Pitino, Billy Donovan, Mark Few and Jim Calhoun never had four consecutive 30-win seasons, either. But Wright has just completed his fourth 30+ win campaign in a row, and there’s no reason to assume the streak will fall anytime soon.
7. With Monday’s conquest, Wright joined Krzyzewki and Roy Williams as the only active coaches to have won at least two national championships. Wright is one of only 15 coaches in NCAA men’s basketball history to win multiple national titles. And he’s one of six coaches with two national championships since expansion in 1985.
8. Villanova is a proud program that’s had some amazing moments through history, such as the 1985 team coached by Rollie Massimino upsetting Georgetown to win the national title. But when Wright took over in 2001-2002, the Cats had made the NCAA Tournament only once in the previous four seasons, and hadn’t gotten past the second round since 1988.
9. Jay Wright has fostered a winning culture in large part because he doesn’t chase one-and-done recruits. He wants to coach players who enjoy going to college and being part of a team that can grow together. Wright had five McDonald’s All Americans on his roster in 2010-2011 but Villanova imploded with ego, eight of its last 10 games that season then dragging to a 13-19 record in 2011-2012. Never again. Wright’s energy and attention would be centered on assembling a true team. Villanova has had just ONE top-20 recruiting class since the ESPN recruiting database was initiated in 2007. In 12 classes, Villanova has signed 21 ESPN 100 prospects.
10. By choosing Jay Wright as your coach, it’s reassuring to know he will win without having to stack the roster with five-star recruits. He does not need them. He will win big without them. In fact, Wright will win more games than anyone over a five-season stretch, and he’ll cut down the nets after clinching two national titles in three seasons. And he’ll do this without a Top 10 recruiting class.
During the one-and-done era only three programs have won NCAA championships with the players who use college basketball as a one-season training camp for the NBA: Kentucky in 2012, Duke in 2015 and North Carolina in 2017. But none of the one-and-done teams or their coaches have claimed TWO national championships since the advent of the NBA green-room system in 2006.
Maybe if more power college coaches spent their time carefully constructing teams instead of breathlessly chasing the next center for the Sacramento Kings, the next point guard for the Orlando Magic, or the next power forward for the Utah Jazz, they’d be able to build their own Villanova.
Maybe they should try doing it the Jay Wright way …
The right way.
Thanks for reading …