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The Sun’s Arizin: Jay Wright and the Big East Tournament

Wright is chasing (literal) giants as he looks for a 5th Big East Tournament Championship

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Villanova Mug Arizin Links

Happy Tuesday Nova Nation! Jay Wright is the clear elder statesman of the Big East. Not only is he the conferences longest tenured active coach, he’s also the winningest. Wright comes into the week with four Big East Tournament Championships under his belt (or now waistband? Joggers huh?). No other active Big East coach has more than one (Cooley, Ewing, and Willard).

But talk about the Big East long enough and the conversation will at some point drift to the past and the icons that used to walk the sidelines. Trust me, Wright is paying no mind to his own legacy this week. But that’s not going to stop fans from keeping track as he continues to build up his accolades to stand alongside the members of the “Old Big East”.

Wright already has the Villanova accolades locked down. The school has 5 Big East titles, and Jay’s responsible for all of them except the Kerry Kittles title Lapas won in ‘95. Most of Wright’s success has come in the “Golden Era” of Villanova basketball, winning four of the last six conference tournaments. That places him 4th All-Time among coaches for BET Titles, but there are still three coaches that have out performed Wright so far in MSG.

Jim Boeheim - 5 Titles

The lone member of the trio that actually is still coaching, Boeheim’s success at MSG was spread out over his 30+ year run in the Big East. His first title came before the tournament was held in MSG and would rotate between conference host sites. Big surprise, the 1981 Title he won was held in the Carrier Dome on Syracuse’s campus. Once the tournament moved to NYC, he’d win once more in the 80’s, again in the 90’s, and then back to back in the mid-2000’s. While he did win the BET five times, he did lose the Championship game twice as often. That gives him the dubious honor of losingest head coach in the Big East Championship game with a record of 5-10.

John Thompson - 6 Titles

Big John dominated MSG in the 1980’s, the decade in which he won all six of his Big East Tournament Titles. Not only was he the first coach to with the Big East Tournament in 1980, he was also the first coach to win consecutive tournaments in ‘84 and ‘85. The star of those teams, Patrick Ewing, would also go on to coach Georgetown to a Big East Title, so it’s no doubt Thompson is so high on this list. Quick note though, while Thompson was the first to win consecutive titles with two, Jay Wright is the only Big East Coach (and Villanova the only Big East team) to ever win three straight, 2017-’19.

Jim Calhoun - 7 Titles

Still king of the hill when it comes to Big East Titles, Jim Calhoun will actually be on hand this week covering the action with Big East Shootaround. The legendary UConn coach won his first Big East Championship in 1990, and would add three more by the end of the decade. He’d add two more in the 2000’s, and then of course possible his most famous title was in 2011 with Kemba Walker.

It’s a testament to just how difficult winning in the Big East is that all of these Hall of Fame coaches with decades of years in the Big East still only managed to walk away with the tournament title a handful of times. Jay Wright and Villanova will certainly be challenged on their path to another title as they prepare for the NCAA Tournament, and we can’t wait for it all to get underway tomorrow!

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