The local coaching fraternity had effusive praise for Jay Wright and his Villanova basketball program after the Wildcats’ 79-62 win on Monday over Michigan earned them their second NCAA championship in three years.
The coaches agreed that it begins with how Wright runs his program.
“I think to me the amazing part, and you don’t have to be a basketball coach or even a fan, but just to watch the group dynamics of that team, how they worked together, how they are for each other, their execution of their plan. That is what is so impressive,” Penn coach Steve Donahue said in a phone interview.
Former La Salle coach John Giannini, whose team was competitive in a 77-68 loss to the Wildcats, weighed in via text.
“No matter how you slice it: this championship, the last three years, last four or last five, Villanova has had the best run in the country,” Giannini wrote. “It’s the most impressive college coaching job I’ve ever seen not only because of the amazing results but how and where Jay did it. How he did it was with complete character and where he did it is at a truly great university but without the advantages of the huge football schools whose revenue and facilities are impossible to match.”
Temple coach Fran Dunphy added his praise, also via text.
“A remarkable run and a crowning achievement of another national championship,” Dunphy wrote. “Jay and his staff and team deserve great credit for what they have accomplished. Amazing.”
Drexel coach Zach Spiker said he was in awe of what Wright has accomplished with the program.
“Any chance I have to be around him, I just shut up and listen,” Spiker said. “Jay Wright is king of culture.”
Wright’s former assistant Pat Chambers told a story that occurred as Villanova was preparing to compete in the Final Four.
Chambers, the Episcopal Academy graduate and Penn State coach, was preparing his team for the NIT, which the Nittany Lions eventually won with an 82-66 victory over Utah last Thursday. He said Wright stayed in constant contact throughout Penn State’s run to the title.
“As we made our run, I think he was texting me more than I was texting him,” Chambers said in a phone interview. “Here he was, having to prepare to play in the Final Four and he was texting me and telling me how proud he was of what Penn State was accomplishing. He didn’t just text and say ‘good job,’ he was sending me paragraphs explaining how proud he was.”
On Twitter, St. Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli, wrote about Villanova: “The play was extraordinary – the style was inspiring – the class was unique.”
— Phil Martelli (@PhilMartelliSJU) April 3, 2018
Chambers and the other coaches said they were most impressed by how the Villanova players accepted their roles. He cited the Final Four’s most outstanding player, Donte DiVincenzo, as an example. DiVincenzo came off the bench this year for the Wildcats, saving the best for last with a 31-point performance against Michigan.
“Guys on most teams usually have an issue because they want to start and be promised minutes,” Chambers said. “[Wright] convinces everybody to buy in and compete and win.”