Class is in session at Villanova. Official practices don’t begin until next month for the Villanova Wildcats, so Jay Wright had some time to catch his breath since his gold medal experience with Team USA Basketball at the 2021 Tokyo Olympics.
Bringing home the gold
One of the many highlights for Wright during the offseason included his time in Tokyo as an assistant for Gregg Popovich on the Team USA Basketball team.
After losing to France in their first game in Tokyo, the United States came back to beat the French when it mattered most. Team USA won the rematch, 87-82, in the men’s basketball finals to win its fourth consecutive gold medal.
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“Knowing that you did it for your country and going through what this team went through was truly one of the greatest experiences I’ve ever had in sports and in basketball,” Wright said. “It was incredibly rewarding and an exhilarating feeling when we finally won the gold.”
It was Wright’s first trip to the Olympics as a member of the Team USA coaching staff.
“The players get the gold medals, the coaches don’t get gold medals,” Wright said with a smile.
He did note that his will come later. USA Basketball makes and sends all coaches a copy of the same gold medal to keep.
While he was there, he kept tabs on Chris Arcidiacono, Eric Dixon, Brandon Slater, and Trey Patterson, who competed and also represented the stars and stripes in the 2021 FIBA 3x3 U-23 Tournament in France.
He kept his distance, but even with the time difference between France and Tokyo, he was still able to catch almost every game.
“We were quarantined, so it broke up the days, it was good for me. I might’ve missed just one game, but I was really proud of how they competed,” Wright said. “They played really hard and tough. They did not shoot the ball well. The ball is different, the rules are different. I think the teams they were playing against were more sophisticated and more prepared for the rules of 3x3, but I thought they did a great job. I was really proud of them.”
Wright mentions that while he was in Tokyo, he handled the defense along with Indiana Pacers assistant Lloyd Pierce, but he’s bringing much more back home than just his gold medal.
“A lot of things,” Wright said of his takeaways. “Things that we did offensively in pick-and-roll offense and in cutting. A lot of things are terminology and concepts. ... Just a lot of good stuff. A lot of great basketball minds there.”
Hall of Fame preparations
The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame is set to induct its newest class during a two-day event on Sept. 10-11.
Wright is one of 16 members in the Class of 2021, a group that also includes Rick Adelman, Chris Bosh, Paul Pierce, Bill Russell, Ben Wallace, Chris Webber, Yolanda Griffith, Lauren Jackson, Val Ackerman, Cotton Fitzsimmons, Howard Garfinkel, Clarence “Fats” Jenkins, Tuni Kukoc, Bob Dandridge, and Pearl Moore.
Wright expanded on his decision to have Charles Barkley, Bill Cunningham, Herb Magee, and George Raveling to serve as his presenters during the enshrinement ceremony.
“Growing up in Philadelphia and being part of the Philadelphia basketball world, the Philadelphia basketball family had such an impact on me,” he said. “I wanted to go with the guys from my hometown that were a part of my Philadelphia basketball upbringing. That’s exactly why I picked the four of them, and in different ways.
“Herbie Magee just being a legend, having recruited me out of high school, and I’ve learned so much from him. Charles being such a good friend and being one of the greatest Philadelphia basketball players ever. Billy C., great friends with Coach Mass and he brought a championship to Philly. Then, George Raveling being Mr. Villanova and Philadelphia.”
Now, all that’s left is his Hall of Fame speech, which is still a work-in-progress.
“It’s like a term paper, I gotta leave to for the last minute,” Wright said. “There’s 16 inductees this year, the largest class ever, so we’re really limited. My challenge is I don’t want to say too many names, and then leave out others, so I gotta figure that out.”
Villanova certainly had its struggles with injuries and COVID-19 last year, but the Wildcats’ misfortunes persisted well into the summer.
On the bright side for Villanova, almost everyone is back and cleared to resume basketball activities. However, there was a fairly long list of complications, injuries, and just overall bad luck.
Wright revealed that Caleb Daniels had remaining issues from his bout with COVID-19 that he struggled with. As a result, he missed most of the summer and wasn’t cleared until the very end of July.
Jermaine Samuels underwent successful surgery on his finger. It was originally reported that Samuels sustained a finger injury after the Wildcats’ time in Bubbleville. He ultimately played in 25 of 26 games last season. The surgery corrected a broken finger, and he was also out until the end of July.
Freshman guard Angelo Brizzi had complications with his adenoids and missed plenty of time. He ended up getting his tonsils removed.
To top things off, Justin Moore and Brandon Slater got into a car accident. Moore had a concussion from the incident, but both players are now okay.
Collin Gillespie and Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree continued with their rehab after their season-ending injuries.
“Everybody is 100%, everybody’s back, Collin included, but Dhamir is still progressing slowly,” Wright said. “Still not at 100%. Some of it being he’s been out so long and conditioning, and some of it still with his shin bone.”
Cosby-Roundtree is the only remaining question mark on Villanova’s now-cleared up injury list, and Wright plans on making a further evaluation on a timetable for a return once practice begins next month.