"I gotta get this under control."

That would be difficult, even for him, particularly given the 72,000 screaming people and the flashing lights and the fireworks and the confetti blizzarding to the floor of the basketball court and his players dogpiling each other and his assistants grabbing him and Roy Williams shaking his hand, saying Roy Williams-type, deep-meaning stuff, but Jay Wright had to get this thing under control because - didn't anyone else notice? - there might still be point-something of a second left on the clock and the refs hadn't given the all-clear and they might have to sweep the court and set up a defense and it could all come apart unless he could get this under control.

"I was still in coach mode," Wright said quietly, standing in Villanova's practice gym just two days after that moment when his team won the national championship against North Carolina, just one day after the police shut down I-95 south and the Blue Route for their return to campus, just hours after taking a call from President Obama, just that far into a life that would never be the same again.

Not everything can be controlled, although college coaches are among the most willing to test that theory. Wright has coached basketball for more than 30 years and been around it nearly 50 years. He gets the game and its nuances at the deepest level. If he had been able to step back from coach mode, to be one bit of the confetti that swirled to the floor and could have seen things from above, he would have realized for certain that Kris Jenkins won the game with a three-point shot at the buzzer, and there wasn't a referee on earth who could alter the perfection of the ending.

Controlling the game of basketball is not light work, and even the best college coaches admit it is a crazy-making ambition, the equivalent of coaching a coin flip. On a good night, a team will make and miss half its shots. On a good night, so will the other team. The shots are taken by 19-to-22-year-olds, throwing a rubber ball at a steel circle. There's so much more to it, but sometimes the game is just that random.

Wright's philosophy is to attempt to separate the process from the outcome. Worry about playing the game properly, worry about the things that can be controlled, and the results will take care of themselves. There is always something to teach, always something to be learned, because the season always ends with a loss. There is always more to be done. Now, he has a different challenge, both for the team and for himself, because the season ended with a win.

"I've been trying to cut down as many text messages as I can," he said. "I'm still at 440. It goes up to 480-490, and I get it back to 440. But you can't get to everybody. If you could write that, tell everybody I apologize. I'm trying.

"I talked to Rick Pitino and Coach Mass [Rollie Massimino] and John Calipari. I can't take every call, but I picked up those because I wanted to ask all three, 'What should I know about this?' Each one said, 'It's going to change. It's definitely going to change.' I don't want it to. I was happy with the way things were before we won, very happy. Even with those first-weekend NCAA losses, I was happy. I was content because guys were graduating, guys were playing well, playing together, that was enough for me. I've got to figure this out. See how it plays out and figure it out."

There isn't a map to consult, or any outside advice that will really help. Wright has been at Villanova 15 years without reaching a crossroad like this. Pitino and Calipari, who also won championships, have been coaching gypsies, to the pros and back, to here and there. Not the same thing. Even Massimino, the Villanova coach when the team won its legendary 1985 championship, can't be much of a guide. Wright saw those consequences up close, joining the Villanova staff in 1987 before following Massimino to the siren song of the truly big time at UNLV.

It doesn't make sense visually, but the pudgy, rumpled Massimino, his hair thinning and his oversize personality fraying in the spotlight, was four years younger than Wright when he won his championship. At 54, Wright is neither young nor old, and remains as composed in all things as Massimino was disheveled. Villanova's only previous Final Four appearance during his coaching tenure came in 2009. If the next one is worth chasing, and takes that long for the basketball gods to allow, he'll be 61. Is that OK?

Wright wants to answer the question with what he feels inside, not what is expected of him from the outside. Things have changed. He knows that. The coin flip came up heads instead of tails. The question remains. Will he have to change, too?

"I don't know. I hope I can be the same guy," Wright said. "I want to be. I don't need to be anything else. Being the coach at Villanova, being married to Patty, being the father of my kids is enough. I think that's what I'm going to have to deal with. I know I'm trying to be the same, and that's what's most important to me. When other people aren't perceiving it that way, it's going to be about how I handle that. People might be upset with me, and that will hurt me, but I'll have to learn to deal with that, because I'm learning you can't do everything."

The lessons of real fame and attention began in that 2009 Final Four. It was wonderful and a great reward for the team, and Wright wanted everyone to enjoy it. He wanted everyone to be a part of it and to experience the event. And Villanova was beaten soundly in the semifinal by North Carolina. Wright knew 10 minutes into the game his team wasn't prepared and didn't have a chance.

"I wanted to make everybody happy, and I made myself miserable. The experience in '09 taught me a lot about the business, about myself, and about handling success," Wright said. "You can't learn how to deal with celebrity unless you experience it."

He was a Final Four coach and what he calls "the perfume" was everywhere. People wanted to tell him he was great. People wanted to stand in his reflection. He took a meeting with 76ers general manager Ed Stefanski about the team's vacant head coaching job, but it was mostly a courtesy for a downashore Philly buddy, and he quickly removed his name from consideration. Kentucky knocked on the door, too, but Wright didn't inhale. He went back to work.

Between then and now, the perfume had dissipated in the fickle breeze of college seasons that turned out differently. Villanova went to the NCAA tournament in all but one of the years but couldn't play its way out of the first weekend, the dividing line by which elite programs are judged. There were even questions as to whether Wright's tenure could be in jeopardy with another disappointment.

Wright followed the shot as it went up and hung in the still air of the stadium.

"Bang," he said as the ball was halfway home.

He turned, his right hand unconsciously unbuttoning the suit jacket like a duelist sliding a sabre into its scabbard, and went to console Williams, his eyes flicking three times toward the celebration on the court. When there is an end-of-game shot in the air, Wright always says, "Bang," if his team has taken it, and, "No way," if it is the other team. The shot isn't to the basket yet, and the basketball gods are still deciding about it, so it can't hurt to lobby them.

"I've done that forever," Wright said. "I never knew if my lips moved."

Somewhere between being hugged by his assistants and reaching Williams, Wright saw referee Terry Wymer come to the scorer's table and peer at the replay on a monitor.

"Is this done or not?" Wright said.

"I think it's good, but it's not official," Wymer said.

And that is when Jay Wright stood for a moment and saw the orderly lines of the court obscured by the messy lattice of the confetti and he knew, even as he searched for it in the tight grip of coach mode, that control was out of his reach. He just didn't know how much. Still doesn't.

"This doesn't make us better people or mean that we deserve more because we won it. We have to handle this the way we handled it after we lost," Wright said. "If the players can use the characteristics within them to be successful under the most difficult circumstances in the other aspects of their lives, then this is going to be good for them. If they use this as a badge to get favors from people because they won the national championship, it's going to hurt them."

He can't determine how that turns out. There is only so much a coach can do with those lifetime coin flips. During the tournament, Wright told his team, his 19-to-22-year-olds whose names were national news, not to watch ESPN.

"I don't know if they listened to me," he said.

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."

The coach looked around the practice gym. There are banners to previous accomplishments there, and room will be made for another. If nothing about what just happened could really be explained, if none of the coming changes were his to control, at least he can decide where it goes.

"A lot of things fell into place," he said in a soft voice.

bford@phillynews.com

@bobfordsports