According to the Z.Z. Top song, “every girl is crazy about a sharp dressed man.” That and having a smart basketball mind will get you a Head Coaching job in the Big East. If you don’t think so, ask Jay Wright.
As the head coach of the Villanova University Wildcats, Wright has been named as a winner of the annual Fashionable Four, a tournament held by GQ magazine, that awards the best dressed coach in college Basketball. He has parlayed his success in amateur-unintentional modeling into success on the court reaching post-season play with Villanova for the past seven years, including a Final Four appearance in 2009.
Wright born in Churchville, Pennsylvania is a graduate of Council Rock High School and an alumnus of Bucknell University, where he was a member of the Bison basketball team for four years. Wright was a four-year letterman for the Bison in basketball and also won leadership and Most Valuable Player awards.
After graduating with degrees in economics and sociology, Wright got his first taste of coaching in the college ranks when he was hired as an assistant coach at the University of Rochester (New York), a Division III school, in 1984. In 1986 Wright was hired as an assistant at his alma mater, Drexel where he worked until 1987. Following his stint at Drexel, foreshadowing his later career, Wright was hired as an assistant at Villanova. While at Villanova, Wright would serve on the staff of Rollie Massimino. Massimino, who lead the Wildcats to a National Championship in 1985. While on Massimino’s staff, Wright learned how to recruit and plan games, and also developed a connection to Villanova staying from 1987 to 1992, Wrights longest assistant coaching post. Wright would then follow Massimino to the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) until 1994 when he was given his first chance to become a head coach, at Hofstra University.
After three straight losing season at Hofstra (1995-1997) Wright lead the Pride to three straight post-season appearances. His best statistical season at Hofstra came in the 2001 season when they posted a 26-5 record, but were eliminated in the first round of the NCAA tournament. In his seven years at Hofstra, Wright posted a 122-85 record and won 2 American East Regular Season Championships, 2 American East Tournament Championships and was twice named as Conference Coach of the Year.
Villanova came calling in 2000, Wright would become the 8th coach in the school’s 81 year history. In Wright’s first season (2001) Villanova would record a 19-13 record and make the NIT Quarterfinals. The next big milestone for Wright would be the first off court scandal involving his players. In 2003 it was revealed that the team had been making long distance phone calls using a university employee’s access number (Villanova has also had troubles with this issue, in 1996 star guard Kerry Kittles was suspended for making $3,000 worth of calls on a Villanova employee’s phone card.) The team imposed their own suspensions and only finished with a mediocre record despite bringing a in a strong recruiting class.
Wright’s first trip to the NCAA tournament came in 2005 when he lead the Wildcats to the Sweet Sixteen. Since then he has lead them to appearances in the Elite Eight, Sweet Sixteen and Final Four in 2009. At Villanova Wright has compiled a record of 325-183 and won a Big East Regular Season Championship and 2 Big East Tournament Championships.
Players that were coached by Wright include Speedy Claxton, Randy Foye, Kyle Lowery and Allan Ray.
Off the court Wright is active in Coaches vs. Cancer. According to Villanova.com, Wright, partnering with coaches at Drexel, Penn, LaSalle, St. Joseph’s and, Temple have raised an amount of money for the organization that now considers the Philadelphia chapter one of the largest donors in the nation. Wright has also done a good job reaching out to Villanova alumni, hoping to get them involved with the university. Wright hosts an annual golf outing for alumni, also there has been an increase in demand for tickets for the team’s annual banquet.
Wright also prefers to recruit inside the area, but makes an exception to recruit players out of New Jersey. “We’ll always recruit New Jersey because that’s where the bulk of our alumni are from. The history of Villanova basketball, there’s so many great players from New York and New Jersey,” Wright said during a 2008 Big East Media Day event. Two notable recruits out of New Jersey currently playing for Villanova are the guard tandem of Corey Stokes and Corey Fisher.
Wright also possesses a growing coaching tree. Former assistants under Wright that have made the jump to coaching in college are Tom Pecora (Hofstra), Joe Jones (Columbia), Bill Lange (Navy) and Fred Hill (Rutgers). Two of Wright’s protégés Brett Gunning and Ed Pickney are currently NBA coaches with the Houston Rockets and Minnesota Timberwolves respectively.
Wright is currently under contract at Villanova until 2013, after signing an extension in 2007, however this has not stopped speculation that the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers are trying to hire Wright away from the university. The move would mark the first time Wright has coached in the NBA and would fit his preference of coaching in the Northeast region and located near Villanova. At this time, the movie is purely speculation, as no offer has been made. Wright was also speculated to be under consideration for the Head Coaching position at the University of Kentucky prior to the hiring of John Calipari in 2009.
Wright has coached the USA national team at various levels. He won a gold medal at the 2005 University Games.
It was speculated in 2007 and 2009 that Wright could be in line to coach the USA men’s senior national team at the 2012 London Summer Olympics, but with Mike Krzyzewski currently in agreement to coach, the claim seems like further speculation.
A refreshing statistic that stands out when looking at Wright’s achievements is that every player who has stayed 4 years at Villanova, has earned their college degree.
Wright has been married to his wife Patricia (a Villanova graduate and cheerleader) since 1992, they have two sons Taylor and Colin and a daughter named Riley.
Another fashion related saying is that “the clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no impact on society,” courtesy of American Author Mark Twain. Jay Wright dresses sharp and wins games, as long as he keeps putting on the suits, he will have no trouble lifting titles.