Villanova coach Jay Wright retires: Two-time national champion leaves Wildcats after 21 seasons

In a shocking decision that will reverberate around college sports, longtime Villanova men’s basketball coach Jay Wright, 60, has decided to retire after 21 years of leading the Wildcats, the coach announced Wednesday evening. Wright, who led Villanova to a pair of national championships, called an impromptu meeting with his team to share the news of his retirement from him.

During that meeting, Wright shared that Fordham coach Kyle Neptune will replace him in leading the Villanova program, sources told CBS Sports. Neptune was an assistant under Wright from 2013-21.

“Over the past 21 years, I’ve had the opportunity to live out a professional dream of as the head coach at Villanova. Patty and I have been blessed to work with incredible, gifted young men who allowed us to coach them and brought us unmatched joy,” Wright said in a statement on Twitter. “We cannot overstate the gratitude to the players, coaches, and administrators who have been with us on this path. It has been an honor and a privilege to work at Villanova, especially under Father Peter and Mark Jackson”

Wright, already a member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, began seriously mulling his retirement throughout this past season, a source said. I have moved closer to his decision from him in March. In recent weeks, Villanova power brokers had discussions with Wright to see if the coach would change his mind about him.

Fresh off his fourth Final Four appearance, Wright is deciding to walk away from the grind of college basketball. Privately, he has shared frustrations with some of the significant changes with the way the sport operates. It’s not that Wright is against the idea of ​​the transfer portal or name, image and likeness rules, but rather all that comes with those things, the way recruiting is in this era, and what it means to be a power-conference coach who’s expected to perform at the highest of levels on an annual basis. He’s also gone through some burnout with the grind of the job, one source said.

Villanova has been one of college basketball’s premier programs, ascending to elite status under Wright across the past decade. The Wildcats won national championships in 2016 and 2018 while also advancing to the Final Four in 2009 and 2022. Nova has played in the NCAA Tournament in 16 of the last 17 seasons the event was held, only missing the postseason entirely eleven, in 2012.

Wright ends his career with a 642-282 record, combining 21 seasons at Villanova with seven at Hofstra, where he went 122-85 with a 50-12 record and two NCAA Tournament appearances in his final two campaigns.

The two-time Naismith Coach of the Year and six-time Big East Coach of the Year finished 520-197 at Villanova as the program lorded over its conference. The Wildcats won eight Big East regular-season championships (seven in the last nine seasons) and five Big East Tournament titles while receiving a top-three seed in the NCAA Tournament nine times since 2009.

Why now?

With Wright pondering retirement for a considerable length of time, there were rumblings that emerged in the past 24 hours about its potential. He had not yet informed the players of his decision, so instead of allowing rumors and growing whispers to take hold, Wright promptly called a meeting with the team — ahead of an end-of-season banquet scheduled for Thursday night — to make the announcement privately to everyone in program, sources told CBS Sports.

Wright previously told his assistants, a source said.

His retirement decision is not health-related, but rather a case of him being ready to take a break from coaching, sources said. A combination of burnout and a career filled with substantial success created a scenario in which there is nothing left for Wright to prove. He’s walking away as one of the all-time great coaches in college basketball history.

Will the NBA come calling?

It might, but Wright has no intention of coaching there. Villanova is his last job for him. Barring a return out of retirement, which is seen as supremely unlikely, Wright has coached his last game from him (a loss in the Final Four to eventual national champion Kansas). It would be genuinely surprising to see him ever engage with the NBA moving forward, a source told CBS Sports, adding “He got his taste with the Olympics and said he could never, ever coach those guys for 82 games.”

Wright leaves Villanova at a time when he was considered one of the most important figures in the sport. He also does it just two weeks after another legend, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, retired following a farewell tour. Three Hall of Fame coaches with multiple national championships have retired in the past year: Krzyzewski, Wright and former North Carolina coach Roy Williams. The trio combined to win six out of the 12 most recent national championships: 2009 (Williams), 2010 and 2015 (Krzyzewski), 2016 (Wright), 2017 (Williams) and 2018 (Wright).

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