Recently-retired Villanova Head Basketball Coach Jay Wright has opened the door to a coaching return less than a week after stepping down from Nova.
“[Coaching in the NBA] was something I always thought about,” Wright said. “My experience with the Olympics kind of scratched that itch. … I kind of feel like I did it a little bit. And I loved coaching those guys.”
Wright won two national championships and two Naismith College Coach of the Year awards during his 21-year tenure at Villanova. He was the 2010s AP Coach of the Decade, a six-time Big East Coach of the Year, and a 2021 Basketball Hall of Fame inductee.
Jay Wright to make NBA coaching debut?
Wright has never participated in the NBA at any level. He went straight from playing at Bucknell to coaching at Rochester in 1984, where he served as an assistant. He made a few stops in various locations, including Villanova, as an assistant, before eventually landing a head coaching job at Hofstra in 1994 and ultimately Villanova in 2001.
Despite his lack of experience at the next level, surrounding interest in Wright is very high. NBA insiders have reported that multiple teams have reached out to gauge his interest in coming to the top flight of basketball; Rich Eisen even led a campaign on his show The Rich Eisen Show on behalf of Los Angeles Lakers fans and pondered a reality in which the all-timer made his way to the big show.
However, this scenario seems to be more of a long-term prospect; Wright was described as being “at peace” with his decision and still feels that he needs to step away from the game.
“Right now I definitely need a break,” Wright said Tuesday. “Right now I’m looking forward to this [special assistant] position at Villanova. But honestly, down the road, I’d be lying— I don’t know what I’m going to feel like.”
While a far cry from a promise, Wright’s open-ended statement was a brain-teaser for fans and general managers around the NBA nonetheless.
Possible landing spots for a legend
Wright’s Northeast tenure might not have to end with his switch to the professional game; the Philadelphia 76ers, after all, are a half-hour drive from Villanova, Wright’s old stomping grounds. They are currently tied up with Head Coach Doc Rivers, but now that they have allowed an injured-Toronto Raptors team to claw back from 3-0 and win two games, many are already analyzing a scenario in which the Sixers get reverse-swept and need a new man at the helm.
If there is one man fit for the choke job, it is Rivers; he is the only coach in league history to have thrown away more than one 3-1 lead in the playoffs, doing it three times across his career and most recently with the Los Angeles Clippers in the 2020 bubble.
The Lakers are also a name on the tip of everyone’s mouths, given they are without a coach and need someone with authority and superior knowledge of the game. Sending Wright to coach LeBron James in the most scrutinized market in American sports would be baptism by fire, but the ever-cool figure would probably favor his chances of surviving the storm.
On a much lower level, the Charlotte Hornets and Sacramento Kings have coaching vacancies which could be a nice fit for a coach with no experience at this level, though it could also be construed as a job below his status.
If Wright is going to jump to the NBA, it is not going to be next year. He shared that he is drained mentally and undoubtedly needs time away.
“I know I made the right decision, because I don’t think going into next year I’d be able to do the things I need to do to keep [Villanova] at a high level,” Wright said. “But I’m going to take this year and really throw myself into this position at Villanova, and then see what’s out there. I just didn’t want to be the coach at Villanova and not be 100 percent in.”