As the nature of college sports is one of perpetual change, one of the few constants that can determine the consistent success of Villanova Basketball is the coaching staff that determines what players are brought to the Main Line and is responsible for teaching them throughout their time on campus. Although due to the Wildcats’ success over the past half-decade there has been more turnover than usual, none of the current staff is new to Villanova.
Due to the fact that assistant Ashley Howard has returned to La Salle where he was an assistant for four years as head coach after learning what it takes to build a winning program and winning two National Championships during his five-season stint under Jay Wright, the Wildcats have named a new assistant for the second summer in a row. Following his longtime tendency of promoting from within, Wright brought in a true Villanova Basketball lifer in Mike Nardi. Although Wildcats fans were first introduced to Nardi when he was a four-year starter for Wright’s teams from 2003-2007 and a 1,000+ point scorer, he came back to the program after a nine year professional career playing in Italy. Having first served a year as Director of Student-Athlete Development and one as Video Coordinator for the basketball program, Nardi gained the skills necessary to serve as a coach in these roles and will continue to learn on the job throughout this season.
George Halcovage, named one season before Nardi, although not a Villanova alumnus also rose through the ranks under Wright. First named a graduate assistant while pursuing his MBA after graduating from Babson College where he played collegiate ball, Halcovage moved up the ranks of the program, working for five seasons in the video department and for a year as Director of Basketball Operations before taking on his current role as assistant coach. Through this tenure so far, Halcovage has taken a pretty comprehensive role, both on court with the team and off the court as a primary recruiter for the program.
Kyle Neptune is both the longest tenured assistant coach under Wright and the only one of the three who has previous experience as an assistant at another school, but he also has previous Villanova credentials. After playing for Lehigh from 2003 go 2007, Neptune originally joined Wright’s staff in 2008, serving first as an intern and for a second season as video coordinator(sense a pattern yet?). After this, Neptune served as an assistant for three seasons at Niagara University from 2010 to 2013 before returning in the same role to the Main Line. Like Halcovage, Neptune serves in a very comprehensive role, with both current and prospective players.
Last but most definitely not least is their boss: Jay Wright. After last year winning his second National Championship and passing Alexander Severance to become the program’s all-time wins leader, Wright enters his 18th season at the helm on the Main Line undisputed as one of the best coaches in college basketball and an unquestioned future hall of famer. With quite possibly his youngest roster in recent memory, although perhaps the one with the most raw talent, Wright will have to demonstrate his ability to speed up his vaunted developmental program that produced sleeper first round picks like Josh Hart, Mikal Bridges, and Donte DiVincenzo. With the ninth ranked freshman class in the nation here to learn on the job and supplement a still talented remainder of the core that won last year’s championship, Wright’s challenge this year is to prove he can succeed with a young team just as he has with more experienced ones in the past, while also serving as one element of consistency through a period of change.