A little unsolicited (and maybe unwanted) advice for Villanova: Take the layup.
Trying to hire Drexel’s Denise Dillon to replace Harry Perretta as women’s basketball coach after this season is just a smart move (although maybe a contested layup if Drexel has anything to say about it). Not saying such a move should be made to carry on Perretta’s legacy. Nope, that shouldn’t be Villanova’s goal. Perretta’s 42-year legacy can rest fine on its own, doesn’t need more embellishing after his retirement.
Villanova should reach for the heights, try to figure out whom it can bring in who could have the school competing to get to Final Fours.
Why is that Dillon? The job she has done in her 17 seasons at Drexel. Drexel is legit every season, and that starts with Dillon. If a Power 5 school announced tomorrow that it was hiring Dillon, most people in basketball would be like … strong hire. It’s kind of shocking some big-time school already hasn’t made her an offer she couldn’t refuse.
Not saying Dillon would even automatically go to Villanova. No idea on that. They’ve treated her well at Drexel. They fully know they have a fine coach. She just exactly fits the profile of the kind of coach Villanova should be looking at, and the school would seem to have some advantage trying to get her, since it is her alma mater and she was Perretta’s assistant for four years before going to Market Street. She’s a Big 5 Hall of Famer from her own playing days.
We’re not suggesting Dillon is Jay Wright. He’s made that an unfair comparison for any coach lately. But her resume looks a lot like what Wright did at Hofstra before returning to a campus where he had worked as an assistant. He’d performed above the established water level. Same for Dillon. Drexel had been above .500 once in the dozen years before she got there. Year 2, after serving as an interim coach in Year 1, she was 19-10 and never looked back, the Dragons averaging a little more than 20 wins a season.
Let’s assume Villanova isn’t looking to make a super splash, trying to break the bank to see if a Geno Auriemma or Muffet McGraw or Dawn Staley, all from around here, wanted to come home to finish off a Hall of Fame career. Even starting that conversation would require a Wright-sized salary offer, which doesn’t make fiscal sense, and reality says it still probably wouldn’t happen.
Let’s argue that Villanova should not be looking at current assistants of such programs, that such a coach might be impressive and ready to be a head coach, but if you’re aiming for Final Fours, then it’s still a crapshoot. Ask all the schools that hired Mike Krzyzewski assistants as their men’s head coaches. Some worked out. Far from all.
We’re not saying Dillon is the only qualified candidate. Other fine coaches exist out there. Dillon has just established a high bar to get over. The previous three seasons, the Dragons won 73 games, and nobody would claim Drexel has the top basketball facilities in the Colonial Athletic Association. (If you’re looking around for a dedicated practice gym, keep looking.) When the Dragons beat Auburn, Florida, and Utah on their way to winning the 2013 WNIT title, compare resources. That’s not supposed to happen.
Drexel diehards don’t mind pointing out there could have been a run of NCAA appearances, not just a 2009 appearance, if a player named Elena Delle Donne hadn’t decided to play down the road at Delaware. Two straight years, the Dragons reached the CAA final, only to have a future WNBA MVP waiting for them.
(Imagine a completely realistic alternate history in which Delle Donne had gone to Villanova instead of Connecticut, which would have meant she never transferred to Delaware. Villanova would have had a great run, Drexel could have been at the top of the CAA … and Dillon might have had other interesting offers.)
After leading the nation in fewest points given up per game during the 2018-19 season, the Dragons are doing their thing this season, 10-6 overall, 3-1 in the CAA. They played Villanova, beat Villanova. Dragons senior Bailey Greenberg and her teammates have gotten used to battling with the best in the Big 5. Greenberg is one of those players good enough to be a big-time player at any Big 5 school. Dillon got her.
A local hoops comparison might be to when the Penn men’s job opened in 2015. Steve Donahue was the layup target. The Quakers took the layup, made the layup. It’s a smart way to play the game.