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Sunday, September 05, 2004

The Wright Stuff at Villanova?

The College Basketball blog has a nice discussion of the future of Jay Wright at Villanova. I think that this is a very important year for Jay Wright at Villanova. The Wildcats have endured a bunch of problems (last year's knee injuries of prized center Jason Fraser being paramount among them, along with what seems to be every 10 years' problem with players' access to phone credit cards), and the administration and alumni expected Jay Wright to be a big improvement over Steve Lappas. After all, only 20 years ago the Wildcats won their only NCAA title, and it seems longer than that.

On the one hand, Wright created major expectations because of his ability as a recruiter. He did bring in some big names, and the College Basketball blog makes note of that. That said, he really hasn't delivered with the big names, in the Big East or even in the Big Five. The biggest bruise to the once rather large collective ego of the Villanova fan base over the past several years has to have been the success that Phil Martelli has had at St. Joe's. While the Hawks have a wonderful tradition of their own, the Wildcats' fans would argue that it's a no brainer for a recruit to pick the Big East over the A-10 and, to them more importantly, Villanova over St. Joe's (the location in the Phila. suburbs is a bit nicer than St. Joe's on City Line Avenue). The success of Jameer Nelson and Delonte West has had to stick in the craw of the old 'Nova faithful, for one simple reason -- the premier program in Philadelphia over the past several years has been none other than the St. Joe's Hawks. Before that it was the Temple Owls.

Whither Villanova?

That's the question that Villanova fans and college hoops fans in Philadelphia beyond are asking. After this season, the 'Nova faithful and everyone else will have their answer. Will Jason Fraser, Curtis Sumpter et al. lead the Wildcats back to the NCAA tournament, or will their performance cause Jay Wright to update his resume?

It says here that it's even money, but with this talent, Wright should get the Wildcats back to the Big Dance. (And I'm not a huge Wright fan, as so far I believe he's proven to be a much better recruiter than he is a coach, and I laugh when I think of what might have happened had former LaSalle coach Speedy Morris had Wright as a recruiter years ago -- with Morris' coaching ability, the Explorers would have been a perennial Top 10 team).

If not, a premier coaching job will open up again, and the speculation will run rampant.

For unlike the LaSalle job, which has had its limitations over the years in terms of relative compensation and the lack of a solid recruiting budget, the Villanova job is definitely akin to the successful family's move to the suburbs say 40 years ago. It's a job that many will want.

But, in all likelihood, a job that Jay Wright will get to keep, perhaps for a while.


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