Jay Wright will stay longer at another Catholic institution — he’ll start his 18th season at Villanova after rebuffing requests from NBA teams to talk to him about coaching vacancies. The 56-year-old Wright has long been one of the hottest names attached to marquee-program or NBA openings but has never really considered leaving the Wildcats. “Depending on who the guy is, I’ll say, ‘I’m honored, I’m humbled, I’d love to work with you, but I love my job,’” Wright said. “It’s always that simple.”
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According to an NBA source, the Knicks will not speak to Wright to conclude an exhaustive coaching search that has now taken them to Europe for David Blatt.
Wright’s agent, in his first public remarks since a published report stated the Knicks have interest, said on the record Wright won’t speak to any NBA clubs and will defend the school’s 2018 NCAA championship. “He’s under contract with Villanova and he’s very, very happy there,’’ his longtime agent, Carl Hirsch, told The Post. “There’s no plans to leave.’’
Mike Vorkunov: As for Jay Wright, here’s what he told @DanaONeilWriter this week about jumping to the NBA. O’Neil: Before we move on to how those decisions could impact your team, what about you? Do you have any interest in moving on to the NBA? Jay Wright: I’m staying. I love it here. I love what we’re doing. I’m just really happy. I said when I was at Hofstra and I didn’t take other jobs, I used that old Jim Valvano line, Don’t mess with happy. That seemed appropriate at Hofstra until this job opened. It’s still really appropriate. I’m very happy here. I don’t need another challenge. I like happy better than a new challenge. The NBA does intrigue me. That challenge is appealing, but it’s not worth giving up working with these guys. The whole thing is, to take a new challenge you have to give up what you have. I don’t want to give up what I have. Would I like to coach in the NBA? Yes. But I have to give this up in order to do that, and I don’t see that happening.
Peter Vecsey: Rivers is guaranteed to go, it says here. A revamped roster in mid-February dictates a demand for a new voice with new ideas with a new image. Owner Steve Ballmer, who inherited Rivers when he purchased the Clippers and gave him lots of leeway, has had plenty of time to figure out Doc is a stone phony. He took away one title (president) from him prior to this season. The time has come to relieve him of his coaching duties, pay him the $10M owed for next season, and offer Villanova’s Jay Wright a blank check. GM Lawrence Franks’ second choice, I’m told, is Jeff Van Gundy.
The Knicks intend to contact Villanova’s Jay Wright about their head coaching vacancy, the Daily News has learned. According to a source close to the club, Knicks management believes Wright would be a perfect candidate for a rebuilding club.
Wright, who has won two national championships over the last three years, has been linked to NBA jobs in the past but has never given any indication he wants to leave Villanova. “He told me years ago that he wanted to make Villanova into the Duke of the Northeast,” says a person close to Wright. “It would take a lot for him to leave.”
If Wright has NBA aspirations, he should make the move soon. He is 56 years old, he’s got the energy, and an NBA team worth going to will close to double his current $2.6 million salary (money does always matter). Wright is going to have teams reaching out this summer, but he’s also in a position to be a bit picky — he doesn’t have to take the first offer to come his way if he doesn’t trust management and ownership. Which is what he’s done in the past, he’s gotten calls and brushed them aside. Most publicly, thee Suns reportedly reached out in 2016 (after Villanova’s previous NCAA title) and he turned them down.
In that moment, it was apparent why it will not be easy — or cheap — for an NBA team to attempt to pry Wright away from Villanova. Wright is truly happy living 30 miles from where he grew up, working for administrators he respects and admires and above all else building meaningful relationships with the players he coaches. “I have the best job in the country,” Wright said. “I just love going to work every day. Our guys graduate. You see these kids are great to coach. As a coach, there’s just nothing better.”
Third-year Villanova athletic director Mark Jackson admitted to Yahoo Sports that it’s “inevitable” Wright will draw interest from NBA teams. Jackson said that he and Wright engage in “transparent communication about it” and that he has “no sense [Wright] is going anywhere for the long term.”
Wright told ESPN.com that despite speculation to the contrary, he has not been offered any other jobs and if he were, his plan would be to turn them down. He did, however, leave the door at least ajar. “I can say right now that in my mind I plan to stay at Villanova,” he said. “But I also don’t want to be a liar. I want to stay. I know I want to stay, but I just say I hope I can stay because I’ve learned from the past how crazy things can be. I hope I can stay at Villanova because this is where I want to be.”
Probably not. After all, the perfume is everywhere. It is on the wind that circles him now as he is rumored to be a candidate for NBA coaching jobs again, rumored to be in line for this or that, if he only chooses to turn his head. For the moment, he says he is looking straight ahead. “I would like to do this again,” Wright said. “But you understand you might not get that chance. In sports, you might not. We just have to define success the same way we did this year. If we’re the best team we can possibly be at the end of the year, then we’ve done everything we can do.”
Many insiders believe Wright will stay with his roots and that he would be a pricey pursuit for a NBA team, perhaps helping his leverage at Villanova.
Wright, on the morning before Villanova’s championship parade, was asked by 94WIP’s Angelo Cataldi if he would listen to NBA offers. “I don’t think so,” Wright admitted. “I hope not. I love my job here, I really do.”
Cataldi asked the Churville, PA native one more time: You wouldn’t even listen? “I hope not,” Wright reiterated. “I said that in ’09 and they came at you with stuff and you’re like, ‘Woah!’ You gotta stop for a second. I don’t want too — you hope they don’t offer you, that’s what it is. ‘Cause I love my job. I love it here. I’m very happy here, I’m well taken care of at Villanova, I love living in Philly — my family is from here. I feel so — you know in college basketball you never get to coach where you live.
Mitch Lawrence: Fresh off NCAA title, Villanova’s Jay Wright has emerged as the top choice of the Phoenix Suns to become their head coach, per NBA sources.
Monday night’s thrilling national championship victory over North Carolina, to go along with 97 victories over the past three years, has certainly elevated his value again in the minds of NBA executives. “Sure,” one NBA general manager said when asked if Wright could be the next college-to-NBA guy. “He has a great demeanor, communicates, has a terrific knowledge of the game. He just gets it.”
“His name will be popping up more, but I would be surprised if he gets a head job anytime soon,” said one high-level NBA decision-maker. “I think he could be — if he wanted to be,” another GM added.
And if the Wildcats manage to beat North Carolina on Monday night – and maybe even if they don’t – the pull on Wright to leave Villanova for the NBA will be more powerful than it was then. “I’m probably not ready for that,” Wright said Sunday. “I’m really not trying to think about that right now.”
“If you yell at Kobe Bryant, tell him to dive on the ball, I’m not too sure if he would go down for the ball,” junior guard Josh Hart said. “It’s hard with the NBA because you have so many egos, but for the right teams, he’d be good. You see Brad Stevens and what he’s been doing with the Celtics. They’re a young group of guys, kind of like a college team, just going out and playing as hard as they can, helping each other out, stepping up for each other.”
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September 18, 2018 | 10:54 pm EDT Update
JH: What does it mean to you when people say you are now “The best player in the East?” Giannis Antetokounmpo: There is going to be a lot of people out there that is going to say I am the best in the East and there is going to be some that says that I am not the best in the East, so my mindset is to keep working hard, focus on my game and to continue making my team better. We are trying to get as many wins as possible.
JH: With LeBron out of the East, has your mindset changed? What is your ultimate goal for next season? Giannis Antetokounmpo: The goal is still the same. Of course you have LeBron in the Western Conference. We still have great teams like Boston, Toronto, Philly, Indiana in the East. We just have to continue getting better every day as a team. We have a great team, we have a great coach, and hopefully we will have a great season and take another step forward this year.
JH: You are going to face an immense amount of pressure this season. You are already being a pegged as a favorite to win MVP. What have you been doing to improve your game this summer? Giannis Antetokounmpo: I’ve been working on a lot of shooting and a lot of post moves, been working on my handle and want to get better at finding the right people when I get double-teamed or sometimes triple-teamed. It is just about getting better as an overall basketball player.
To hear some insiders tell it, in Doncic, it is as if the Mavs have acquired a taller version of Jason Kidd, who led Dallas to a championship in 2011 and was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this month. “Luka has been playing in the gym with the guys every day and he’s looked great,” forward Dirk Nowitzki said. “He’s a big body guard, he can move, he can shoot, he’s got unbelievable passing skills. “He’s got passes through the legs and behind the back in scrimmages already, so I think we’re going to have a lot of fun watching him over the years grow even more. He’s fun to watch.”