Villanova men’s basketball coach Jay Wright announced his retirement Wednesday night after 21 seasons leading the Wildcats.
Wright, 60, took over at Villanova in 2001 after spending seven seasons as the head coach at Hofstra. He slowly built the Wildcats into one of the best programs in college basketball. Villanova reached four Final Fours under Wright and won the national championship in 2016 and 2018.
“Over the past 21 seasons, I have had the opportunity to live out a professional dream as the head coach at Villanova,” Wright said in a statement. “(Wife) Patty and I have been blessed to work with incredible, gifted young men who allowed us to coach them and brought us unmatched joy. We cannot overstate our gratitude to the players, coaches and administrators who have been with us on this path .”
During his 28 total seasons as a head coach, Wright compiled a 642-282 record with 10 regular-season conference titles, seven conference tournament championships and two national titles. Villanova reached the Final Four this past season, falling to eventual champion Kansas.
Wright was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021.
“We would like to start by expressing our immense gratitude to Jay Wright for his incredible leadership of Villanova Men’s Basketball for the past 21 years,” Rev. Peter M. Donohue, Villanova’s president, and athletic director Mark Jackson said in a joint statement. “He has led our storied program with class, humility and grace, leaving an indelible impact on this community.
“Jay’s legacy at Villanova extends well beyond the numerous awards, accolades and championships. He will be forever known to our community as Villanova’s winningest coach, who did things the ‘Wright’ way, guiding, developing, and empowering the student-athletes who played for him to not only be better on the basketball court but in their personal lives.”
Wright’s departure adds to a changing landscape for college basketball, which has seen a number of Hall of Fame coaches walk away in the past two years. Mike Krzyzewski’s legendary 42-year run at Duke also came to an end in this year’s Final Four. Roy Williams, a three-time national champion at North Carolina, retired after the 2020-21 season.
Wright, the fifth-highest paid coach by total pay this past season according to the USA TODAY Sports salary database, seemed poised to continue his impressive run in the remade landscape coming off yet another Final Four. But he joins Williams (now 71) and Krzyzewski (75) in leaving the sidelines. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Wright is “fully at peace with the decision,” to step away seemingly still in his coaching prime.
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“It’s time for us to enter a new era of Villanova basketball,” Wright said. “After 35 years in coaching, I am proud and excited to hand over the reins to Villanova’s next coach.”
His successor will be Kyle Neptune, who was officially announced as the next head coach at Villanova on Wednesday night. Neptune spent eight seasons serving as an assistant under Wright prior to serving as Fordham’s head coach this past season.
“When looking for a successor, we wanted a candidate who could navigate the changing landscape of collegiate athletics and keep Villanova in a position of strength – now and in the future,” Jackson said. “After meeting with several exceptional candidates, we found all those attributes and more in Kyle Neptune. Kyle quickly stood out for his basketball knowledge, recruiting savvy and natural ability to connect with student-athletes and coaches.”
Though Wright is stepping down from coaching, he will remain with Villanova with the title of “Special Assistant to the President.” He will be “involved in fundraising, advising, education and more,” in that role, the school said.
“Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat,” Wright said.