A report on Forbes.com published Monday quoted an NBA source as saying there is a “strong possibility” that Villanova’s Jay Wright could become the next head coach of the New York Knicks.
The Knicks have been interested in hiring Wright since 2018, after he led the Wildcats to their second national championship in three seasons. But Wright has rejected all outside overtures, including one last year from UCLA, while repeating how much he loves coaching at Villanova.
Asked to comment on the Forbes report, Villanova men’s basketball spokesman Mike Sheridan said, “We don’t comment on speculative reports such as this.”
Wright, 58, is in his 19th season as the Wildcats’ head coach and has them on course for their 15th NCAA Tournament in the last 16 seasons and eighth in a row. Ranked No. 12 nationally this week, Villanova is 19-6 overall and 8-4 in the Big East, good for third place.
NBA teams have been reaching out to Wright, who earns a reported $3.9 million annually, for quite some time. In 2009, after the Wildcats made the Final Four, then-76ers general manager Ed Stefanski gauged his interest in the head-coaching job, which eventually went to Doug Collins.
In 2018, as Wright was losing four key players off his national championship team to the NBA, the Knicks went after him after firing Jeff Hornacek, but he turned down that offer as well.
“I love my job,” he told the New York Post at the time. “You would love that opportunity, that challenge, especially in New York, especially the Knicks, but you have to leave your job, and I love my job.”
Last year, UCLA tried to persuade Wright to take its once-prestigious job, offering to double his current salary, but he declined the offer and former Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin became its new coach.
In an interview last October with the Associated Press, Wright said a friend of his, a UCLA alumnus now in the NBA, wanted to see if he was interested. After Wright said, “No, thank you” to the original pitch, the friend came after him again a few weeks later.
Wright said he was “flattered and honored” but again turned down the offer, adding, “I love it here. I just don’t want to leave.”
There also is a degree of uncertainty of a college head coach transitioning to the NBA. Head coaches Billy Donovan (formerly of Florida) of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Brad Stevens (Butler) of the Boston Celtics have had success. Others, such as former Chicago Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg and current Cleveland Cavaliers coach John Beilein, have struggled.
Beilein, whose Michigan team lost to Villanova in the 2018 national title game, is discussing with team officials the possibility of stepping down, according to reports.