Former Villanova Wildcats associate head coach Baker Dunleavy is the new Quinnipiac Bobcats head coach, which means there’s an open spot on Jay Wright’s bench.
Wright’s had the benefit of a consistent bench for a few years, with the only turnover coming at the backend of the staff where several former players have occupied player development roles.
Now, he has a big hole to fill. Here’s where Wright could go with his decision:
Promote from within
The simplest decision would just be to elevate roles and responsiblites for Ashley Howard and Kyle Neptune. The pair have paid their dues and have been an integral part of the day-to-day recruiting in the program. George Halcovage or Mike Nardi could move up to assistant/operations behind the two, and a video coordinator could be backfilled from there.
The challenge here is that when one staffer leaves for a head coaching gig, they sometimes take somebody else with them. You’ll recall Pat Chambers did exactly that, taking Keith Urgo with him when he left the Main Line for Boston in 2009. So it’s worth monitoring.
Filling a lower end position on the staff is easy, so we expect the staff to remain mostly in-tact with Jay opting to go with the guys he knows and trusts (and have been a big part of the resurgence).
Hire a new associate head coach
Essentially, a like-for-like replacement for what Wright’s losing in Dunleavy. The name that jumps out is former Fordham/Hofstra coach Tom Pecora. He has coached with Jay Wright in the past and was influential in Eric Paschall’s transfer to Villanova. Pecora is available, having been fired from Fordham in 2015.
Keith Urgo is the associate head coach at Penn State under Pat Chambers and a former ‘Nova staffer under Wright. This feels like an excellent fit, if not for the fact that Jay is an incredibly nice guy who probably won’t raid a friend’s staff.
Raphael Chillious is another familiar name, and he’s out at Washington with the Lorenzo Romar firing/Mike Hopkins hiring.. He’s already coached with Wright, and is an excellenter recruiter. This feels less likely than Pecora as a potential option, just because his original stint was short-lived. He’s also getting a ton of love from UConn fans right now with Glen Miller’s exit.
Would Billy Lange come back again? I really don’t think so, but you never know. Same thing for Brett Gunning and Ed Pinckney. Seems like they’re entrenched in the NBA.
Hire a former player and/or somebody with Villanova ties
This may go in tandem with promoting from within - especially if Baker takes somebody with him - but if you are ready to give Howard/Neptune a bump, I’d expect Jay to bring in somebody from the family.
Kerry Kittles would make most ‘Nova fans squeal. He’s a great guy, loves Villanova and Jay, and is coming off a fantastic season with Princeton. If you are promoting up the current staff though, this doesn’t make a lot of sense. You would need Kittles on the recruiting trail for his appeal to the younger generation.
Andrew Francis and Jason Crafton were the sneaky names that jumped out to me reviewing Jay Wright’s coaching tree. Both were on staff with Wright before and have now cut their teeth elsewhere — Francis at Siena and Iowa, Crafton at Nyack.
For the same reason I can’t see Wright stealing Urgo, I don’t see him stealing Dwayne Anderson or Ross Condon from Penn State. But both were influential in making Penn State a legit recruiting threat in Philadelphia, and would likely love to come ‘home,’ but the open position may be lower than what they have now.
Could Doug West come back? I wouldn’t bet on it, but he’s close by at Altoona and has been on the staff before.
I think we could likely see Henry Lowe move up from grad assistant with the rest of the staff’s bump, and that could be that.