When the Grass is greener: Jay Wright's last coaching job

Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports

What will Jay Wright's final coaching job be? Is he already in it, or will we see him setting up shop elsewhere before he retires?

The coaching carousel has been far less predictable in recent years. Coaches who achieve major success at smaller schools are no longer a lock to move on to a bigger program like they may have been in the past. Gregg Marshall seems content with his place at Wichita State when predecessors like Mark Turgeon were not. Shaka Smart has stayed at VCU and Louisiana Tech's Mike White turned down Tennessee and Bob McKillop stayed at Davidson, even after Stephon Curry brought Davidson to the spotlight.

Dana O'Neil covered the topic recently for ESPN.com, noting that many of the hottest names in the coaching ranks have been staying put lately. There are exceptions — Andy Enfield bolted from FGCU as soon as his "Dunk City" success landed him a Pac-12 offer —  but the notables who haven't jumped are worth discussing.

Even some who have jumped remain interesting. Brad Stevens wasn't interested in leaving Butler for another college job, but was ultimately convinced to leave to take a chance at coaching in the NBA with the Boston Celtics.

Jay Wright has also turned down suitors from other schools at every turn since arriving on the Main Line. His initial stumbles out of the starters blocks at Villanova certainly didn't have the blue bloods lining up to woo him, but once he got his bearings and turned things around, so did the offers to move on.

Moving up in college may bring benefits. Duke not only offers Mike Krzyzewski a salary that is close to $10 million per year and the power to spend as much as anyone in the sport on his program. Kentucky, UNC, Louisville, UCLA and other blue bloods have also long offered those benefits as well. While other programs may have smaller budgets and lower salaries, the hierarchy may not be as steep as it seems.

Villanova doesn't have an FBS football team, which robs them of the major revenue source that schools like Duke use to fund their basketball largesse. However, Jay Wright is still one of the highest-paid coaches (earning about a quarter of Coach K's pay), and while Villanova is pinching a few pennies, the program is far from roughing it. Wright gets everything he needs to win on the Main Line.

For Wright and others, the decision to leave is a matter of risk versus reward. Already being paid a salary that puts them at the head of the pack, the raise associated with a move to a new job may not outweigh the risk. Top-of-the-foodchain types of programs have top-of-the-foodchain expectations, and more often than not, their jobs are open because the previous coach left the program in the gutter.

As O'Neil put it, coaches who leave their job in haste "run the risk of going from 'It' coach to yesterday's news."

"Instead of worrying that a chance might not come around again," Jay Wright told ESPN. "I think a lot of guys are thinking, what if I don't get another opportunity like the job I've got right now?''

Villanova may not have the most resources in Division I, but they currently have enough to make the prospect of jumping to a program like Illinois one that tips the risk scales against moving. If the grass is greener in Champaign, it is only a half-shade.

The risk that may still woo Jay Wright, however, is the chance to test himself with a roster of NBA-caliber athletes. The grass in the NBA is certainly a different shade of green than in college?

Much like the highest pressure college jobs, the NBA can chew up and spit out coaches who would otherwise be successful with a roster of motivated 20-year-olds. Rick Pitino is closing in on 700 wins as a college coach, but with the Knicks and Celtics, he managed just a 192-220 coaching record. Cross-state coaching rival John Calipari has a stunning record of Final Fours and titles in college, but went 72-112 with the New Jersey Nets.

Not all college coaches fail in the pros, however, and the siren song of the sport's highest level will still hold some desire for coaches. While Wright didn't pursue the Philadelphia 76ers' job five years ago, that doesn't mean that he won't take the call when an attractive NBA opportunity arises in the future. A team with the potential for a quick turnaround through the draft or free-agency, or one with new management that could swing things in a better direction may be more appealing than the Sixers franchise as it was a half-decade ago.

Smart coaches will always be cautious before switching jobs. 'Moving on' doesn't always mean 'moving up,' but when it does, the carousel starts spinning again.

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