The ink on Brett Brown’s farewell to Philadelphia 76ers fans wasn’t dry before sports talk radio in the city of Brotherly Love was ablaze with ideas for the team’s next coach. The team fired Brown after the Sixers’ anemic effort in the NBA playoffs, getting swept by the Boston Celtics. The 76ers’ rebuild, popularly known as “The Process,” needed a new man (or woman) at the helm.
The coaching carousel is in full bloom with the Bulls, Nets, Pacers, Pelicans, and 76ers on the hunt for head coaches. The roster of possible candidates includes the usual suspects such as Jason Kidd, Tyronn Lue, the Van Gundy brothers (Stan and Jeff), and Mark Jackson. Newcomers to the ballot choices include Ime Udoka, assistant coach of the 76ers; Kenny Atkinson, former Nets coach; Darvin Ham, assistant coach for the Bucks, and Jay Wright, the head coach of the Villanova Wildcats. With Wright as the Wildcats coach, the team won the NCAA Championship in 2016 and 2018. Because of Wright’s college pedigree and local ties, he could be a great fit for the Philadelphia 76ers.
Jay Wright is a Philly favorite
Wright was born in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, a suburb outside of Philadelphia, and was a high school basketball star at local Council Rock North High School. He played college basketball at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, and later was an assistant coach at Drexel University in Philadelphia.
Under the tutelage of Rollie Massimino, another beloved Villanova coach, Wright served as his assistant coach at Villanova from 1987-1992. After a stint as head coach at Hofstra University from 1994-2001, during which he amassed many conference Coach of the Year honors, he took over the Villanova job in 2001.
Wright’s popularity among Philadelphia sports fans reached a milestone during the team’s victory parade after winning the 2018 NCAA men’s basketball National Championship game victory. Even in the wake of the Eagles’ Super Bowl parade a few months earlier, fans came out in the tens of thousands to cheer on Wright and his team.
Standing by Wright’s side during the parade, Mark Jackson, the school’s athletic director, told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “This team resembles him. They’re smart. They’re relentless. They’re unselfish, and they’re tough, just like the city of Philadelphia.”
Wright’s top-notch coaching pedigree
Aside from coaching a team that avoids the sports headlines for all the wrong reasons, Wright has a nearly peerless record as a head coach. The Wildcats have a 471-182 record with eight consecutive seasons of more than 20 wins since Wright took over. From 2014-2015 through 2017-2018, Villanova ran off a string of four straight 30-win seasons.
Jay Wright’s awards include two Naismith Awards for National Coach of the Year, but his true skill lies in mentoring players that have gone on to the NBA. Chief among his pupils is Toronto Raptors guard, Kyle Lowry. Lowry is regarded as the Raptors team leader and was a vital cog in the team’s 2019 NBA Finals run.
Wright is a good fit for the Sixers
Jay Wright continues to shoot down rumors that he would be interested in the 76ers job, but there’s a lot to consider before totally closing the door.
A big issue for the Sixers in their most recent campaign was, according to Josh Richardson (per the Philadelphia Inquirer), accountability. Take it from former Wildcat and Warriors rookie Eric Paschall, Wright is as tough as they come:
“He pushes you, and you might want to just snap,” Paschall told The Athletic (via NBC Sports), “but at the end of the day he’s doing what’s right for you and that’s something that makes him a Hall of Fame coach, just because he wants to see if you’re mentally tough enough to get through it.”
Whether the Sixers make the unorthodox pick and convince Jay Wright to run the team from the bench (he had +600 odds to be the pick at one point), the Villanova headman might, at some point, consider an NBA championship trophy to place next to his two college titles.
Betting odds courtesy of BetOnline.ag (@betonline_ag) August 24, 2020