Former Villanova Basketball Coach Jay Wright Clarifies Future: One Year Off Before NBA In Play

The future Hall of Famer who led Villanova to two national titles says he wants to wait a year before deciding whether to coach in the NBA.

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Not so fast on Jay Wright coaching in the NBA. He told MaximBet on Wednesday that he wants to spend next season in his new position as assistant to the president at Villanova. After that, it’ll almost certainly be the NBA.

This is news that will resonate throughout the Association’s coaching ranks, because Wright will be considered the No. 1 coaching candidate on the market when he is ready to get back to doing what he does best.

“I want to take this year (to) work at VU – get a perspective on what’s next,” Wright wrote in a text to Maxim. One day earlier, he said he’d considered NBA coaching on the Keyshawn, J-Will and Max show.

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“Not right now. That was something I always thought about,” Wright said of his NBA ambitions during the show. “My experience with the Olympics kind of scratched that itch. … I kind of feel like I did it a little bit. And I loved coaching those guys.”

This will open all sorts of speculation as to where Wright may land, because until Tuesday he had always said that coaching Villanova was the perfect job for him, and he had no intentions of ever coaching elsewhere or at any other level.

So let the speculation begin…

MaximBet’s NBA props page is listing the Philadelphia 76ers as the odds-on favorite to land Wright for the 2023-24 season at -200. 

The thinking being that Doc Rivers will get one more year to try to get the 76ers the championship that has eluded that franchise since 1983. Philly holds a 3-2 lead on the Toronto Raptors in their first-round playoff series. The Sixers lost Games 4 and 5 and were booed off their home court on Monday following their lifeless 103-88 defeat. 

Wright’s ties to the Philadelphia basketball scene would make him a natural for that position if Rivers lost his job, which we’ve seen happen more than once in the last few years.

The second-biggest possibility is with the Brooklyn Nets, according to MaximBet who has them at +150, a testament to the lack of satisfaction that franchise has with Steve Nash after the team was swept out of the playoffs by the Boston Celtics despite having Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving (and after having traded for Ben Simmons, who never played a single minute).

Nash just completed his second season at the helm but had never been a head coach at any level before. His close relationship with Durant is one of the main reasons why there is a strong belief that he will return for a third season, and there is an expectation that Simmons will be ready to play at the outset of next season. 

Third on the list is the New York Knicks (+250), who missed the playoffs entirely just one season after Tom Thibodeau was voted NBA Coach of the Year after the Knicks finished fourth in the East. Thibodeau is tight with team president Leon Rose and will be entering his third season next fall. 

Fourth is San Antonio (+500) where there has been talk that coach Gregg Popovich may be getting close to retirement, and fifth is the Portland Trail Blazers (+800), who just finished their first season under Chauncey Billups and missed the playoffs with a 27-55 record, the sixth-worst in the NBA. A season-ending abdominal injury to Damian Lillard in January was a huge contributing factor to the Blazers’ struggles.

Wright, a member of the 2021 class that was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, led the Wildcats to six Big East Conference championships and 16 NCAA Tournament appearances in his 21 seasons as head coach. Under Wright, Villanova reached four Final Fours (2009, 2016, 2018, 2022) and won two National championships in 2016 and 2018.

The 60-year-old was an assistant to Popovich on the U.S. Olympic team that won a Gold Medal last summer at the Tokyo Olympics, and that experience – combined with whatever went on at Villanova to make him decide to leave his post – has changed the calculus when it comes to looking at the NBA as a landing zone.

Wright accepted a job as special assistant to the president at Villanova, a job in which he will assist incoming coach Kyle Neptune with keeping the Wildcats program stable as the school gets its first new head coach since 2000. 

“He’s Mr. Villanova to all of us. You kind of have a feeling, but I was shocked. Everyone who saw that story texted me about it,” says Randy Foye, who was Wright’s first NBA player from the Villanova program and who still keeps in close contact with his former coach. “What I see him doing is going somewhere in a team president role where he could do both, build a team and be the coach. He could run a Fortune 500 company if he wanted to.”

Foye said the role Popovich has with the Spurs would likely be something he could envision Wright emulating, because Wright would want to have a say in who was being traded and traded for, and what a three-or four-year vision for any particular franchise might look like.

“When I was with Minnesota, Kevin McHale was very much coaching even though he was called the team president,” Foye said. “A president of basketball operations, in a lot of ways those guys are all coaches. Jay is the type of guy who makes sure everyone is on the same page, from what we are eating on the team flight to whether we are going out to eat as a team to how we can dissect players and build the best team. A team president has conversations every single day about how things are operating, and I could see him as that.”

Here is the complete set of Jay Wright coaching odds from MaximBet:

Jay Wright Next Team Odds

  • Philadelphia 76ers -200
  • Brooklyn Nets +150
  • New York Knicks +250
  • San Antonio Spurs +500
  • Portland Trail Blazers +800

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