Villanova coach Jay Wright has had his share of opportunities to see what life as an NBA coach would be like, and he has turned his back on all of them to remain on the Main Line.
And even though he calls himself “a lifetime 76ers fan,” he’s also passing on a chance to coach his hometown team.
Wright released a statement Wednesday saying he was not a candidate for the Sixers’ head coaching job left vacant after the firing of Brett Brown on Aug. 24, ending speculation whether he would finally take the leap into the pro ranks.
Wright, 58, who is entering his 20th season as the Wildcats’ head man, announced his decision “out of respect for our Villanova community and our 76ers organization.”
“The 76ers have a great leader in (general manager) Elton Brand, outstanding young talent and an incredible opportunity for any coach to compete for a championship,” he said. “As a lifetime 76ers fan, I have confidence they will bring in the right coach to build on what Brett Brown has developed.
“I am not a candidate for the job. I am very happy and honored to coach at Villanova.”
The Wildcats, who were 24-7 when the coronavirus pandemic resulted in the cancelations of the Big East and NCAA Tournaments on March 12, are considered a contender for the national championship this season. Under Wright’s leadership, the Cats won it all in 2016 and 2018.
Wright has rejected overtures from NBA teams over the years, the latest from the New York Knicks in 2018 after the championship run. He always regarded the interest as “flattering” but talked about how much he enjoyed coaching at Villanova and didn’t want to give it up to take on a new challenge.
Wright has led the Wildcats to a 472-182 record in his 19 seasons at Villanova. The Associated Press named him coach of the decade last January in honor of his 269 wins and two national titles from the start of 2010 to the end of 2019. Counting his time as head coach at Hofstra, he has won 594 games in 26 seasons.
He also has established a reputation for development of his players. Current Wildcats in the NBA include Kyle Lowry, Ryan Arcidiacono, Josh Hart, Mikal Bridges, Donte DiVincenzo, Omari Spellman, Jalen Brunson and Eric Paschall. Saddiq Bey, a unanimous All-Big East honoree last year, is expected to be a lottery pick in the upcoming NBA Draft.