Former Villanova coach Jack Kraft dies at 93

Former Villanova coach Jack Kraft. (Michael Perez/Staff file photo)

John J. "Jack" Kraft, 93, the dapper former Villanova men's basketball coach who led the Wildcats to the 1971 NCAA championship game, has died, an athletic department spokesman said Thursday night. Details of his death were not immediately known.

Mr. Kraft, who was unflappable and always in control on the bench, coached Villanova for 12 years before moving on to Rhode Island. He finished with an overall record of 361-191 in 20 seasons, including a 238-95 mark with the Wildcats. His .715 winning percentage is the highest of any of the school's men's basketball coaches.

Villanova reached the postseason 11 times - six NCAA tournaments, five NIT bids - in Mr. Kraft's time there.

In the 1970-71 season, the Wildcats, led by Howard Porter, reached the Final Four in Houston. After defeating Western Kentucky in the national semifinals, Villanova went against UCLA and the Bruins won, 68-62, for the national championship. Mr. Kraft was named national coach of the year.

However, shortly after the game it was learned that Porter had signed a professional contract at some point during the season. The Wildcats' NCAA tournament record for the 1971 season was vacated and their four NCAA victories were not counted.

Mr. Kraft attended St. Joseph's, where he played for Bill Ferguson between 1940 and 1942. He coached at Bishop Neumann, now St. John Neumann, for 12 seasons and Malvern Prep for one before succeeding Al Severance as Villanova's head coach in 1961.

Mr. Kraft led Villanova to 21 wins in his first season, including two in the NCAA tournament. In all, the Wildcats posted seven 20-win seasons under him. During his career, Mr. Kraft coached Big Five Hall of Fame members Porter, Wali Jones, Hubie White, Jim Washington, Chris Ford, Tom Ingelsby, Johnny Jones, Bill Melchionni, and Hank Siemiontkowski.

He was named to the Big Five Hall of Fame in 1987.