Jay Wright


2-Time NCAA Champion coach with Villanova

The Philadelphia Big 5 and city series games between St. Joseph's, Temple, Penn, Villanova, and La Salle at the Palestra have always been some of the most cherished traditions in college basketball folklore. With the possible exception of New York City in the late 1940s and early 1950s, no other city has produced such a distinguished group of coaches at local universities. Ken Loeffler of La Salle and Rollie Massimino of Villanova won national championships in 1954 and 1985. Loeffler and Tom Gola of La Salle, Dr. Jack Ramsay of St. Joseph's, Harry Litwack and John Chaney of Temple, Chuck Daly of Penn, Cathy Rush of Immaculata, C. Vivian Stringer of Cheyney State, and Herb Magee of Jefferson have all been inducted into the Naismith Hall of Fame. But no local coach has made a bigger impact on the national scene than 61-year-old Jay Wright, who won two NCAA tournaments in 2016 and 2018, was a two-time Naismith national Coach of the Year, and was one of the youngest coaches ever inducted into Naismith in 2021 (age 59). Wright spent 21 years on the Main Line and coached the Wildcats to a 520-197 record, six Big East Conference championships, and 16 NCAA appearances. His teams reached four NCAA Final Fours (in 2009, 2016, 2018 and 2022, his final year before retiring at the young age of 60). At one point from 2014 through 2018, his Villanova teams won 24 straight Big 5 games. He was also a member of the Olympic coaching staff that brought home a Gold medal from the 2022 Summer Games in Japan. Jay Wright will always be remembered for his dapper “GQ Jay” style of game day suits during most of his career. But he was a visionary who understood the business of basketball and built a reputation for developing future high-salaried NBA players such as Kyle Lowry, Jalen Brunson, Mikal Bridges, Josh Hart, and Donte Divincenzo, without relying on “one and done” talent. His teams made big shots while remaining what Wright likes to call humble and hungry personalities.  Wright has produced five All Americas: Randy Foye, Allen Ray, Reynolds, Hart, and Brunson. Nine of his players–Brunson, Hart, Bridges, Lowry, Saddiq Bey, Ryan Arcidiacono, Divincenzo, Collin Gillespie and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl–were on NBA rosters last season. Wright grew up in suburban Bucks County and got a taste for the Big 5 when he watched epic city series games at the Palestra as a high school star at Council Rock North and competed in the Sonny Hill League. He went on to play for Bucknell before getting into college coaching as an assistant at Rochester and Drexel before catching the eye of Massimino. The two forged a lifetime friendship at Villanova before Rollie headed west to UNLV. Wright landed his first head coaching job at Hofstra in 1994, where he won two American East titles before leaving in 2001 to begin turning the Wildcats into a national power. Wright saved his best coaching job for the final chapter of his illustrious coaching career in 2022, when he won 30 or more games for the fifth time and led a team with no NBA-drafted players to another Final Four.  After the season, he stunned ‘Nova Nation when he announced his retirement from coaching to spend more time with his wife and family. He took a job as a college basketball studio analyst with CBS TV and remained at Villanova as an ambassador for the school.  "I started to feel like I didn't have the edge that I've always had,' Wright said. "The edge always came naturally to me, so I started evaluating. I never had to think about anything. I started to think, like, ‘I have to get myself fired up here, let's go.’ We couldn't ask the players. You’ve got to give 100 percent and I'm giving 70 percent. I just knew it was the right time.” Jay Wright was a highly principled coach who is a natural for this prestigious Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame honor. Our city was lucky to have him. By Dick “Hoops” Weiss - Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame Inductee

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Charter Class (2004)

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