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Hall of Fame coach Jay Wright retires, Kyle Neptune to be successor at Villanova

A Wednesday night news drop surprise.

NCAA Basketball: Big East Conference Tournament-Creighton vs Villanova Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova confirmed that both Jay Wright has retired and that former assistant Kyle Neptune will be his successor, after multiple reports and rumors surfaced on Wednesday night.

Wright had mulled retirement privately throughout the offseason, but Wednesday night reports revealed the surprising bombshell. They also shut down any rumors that Wright was leaving for the NBA, and that it’s more so to rest and spend time with family.

The Hall of Fame coach steps away from the game after a notable 21-year tenure, where he won 520 games, reached the Final Four on four separate occasions and won national titles in 2016, with the greatest buzzer beater in college basketball history, then again in 2018, after a historically dominant run to the top.

He won’t be fully away from Villanova and will start a new role as the university’s “Special Assistant to the President,” where he will be involved in fundraising, advising, education and more.

“Over the last 21 seasons, I have had the opportunity to live out a professional dream as the head coach at Villanova. Patty and I have been blessed to work with incredible, gifted young men who allowed us to coach them and brought us unmatched joy. We cannot overstate our gratitude to the players, coaches and administrators who have been with us on this path. It has been an honor and a privilege to work at Villanova, especially under Father Peter and Mark Jackson. Now, though, it’s time for us to enter a new era of Villanova Basketball. After 35 years in coaching, I am proud and excited to hand over the reins to Villanova’s next coach. I am excited to remain a part of Villanova and look forward to working with Father Peter, Mark, and the rest of the leadership team. Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat.” — Jay Wright

The ‘Cats won eight Big East regular season titles and five Big East Tournament championships under his watch. He was named the Big East Coach of the Year six times, national coach of the year twice, and the Associated Press’ Coach of the Decade.

He rose through the ranks as a former Division III assistant coach at Rochester before making his way to the Division I circles and becoming a notable name as a head coach.

All in all, he amassed a 642-282 career record through his time at Hofstra and Villanova and was inducted to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021.

Outside of college basketball, he was an assistant coach for the Team USA team that captured gold at the 2020 Olympics, where he helped Gregg Popovich.

“Jay’s legacy at Villanova extends well beyond the numerous awards, accolades and championships,” said Villanova president Fr. Peter Donohue in a statement. “He will be forever known to our community as Villanova’s winningest coach, who did things the “Wright” way, guiding, developing, and empowering the student-athletes who played for him to not only be better on the basketball court but in their personal lives. Jay taught us all the true meaning of “Attitude” so, on behalf of everyone associated with Villanova Basketball, we would like to express our overwhelming “Gratitude” for everything he has done for Villanova.”

While it was expected Wright would take the torch as the leading college basketball coach following the retirement of Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, another big-time coach has joined the list of notable recent retirements in the coaching world.

With Wright’s departure, Villanova is going to hire former assistant Kyle Neptune. The 37-year old coach spent eight years in Wright’s coaching staff at Villanova and was a part of both national titles in 2016 and 2018, before recently taking the helm at Fordham.

“When looking for a successor, we wanted a candidate who could navigate the changing landscape of collegiate athletics and keep Villanova in a position of strength—now and in the future,” said Villanova athletic director Mark Jackson. “After meeting with several exceptional candidates, we found all those attributes and more in Kyle Neptune. Kyle quickly stood out for his basketball knowledge, recruiting savvy and natural ability to connect with student-athletes and coaches.”

Neptune, who was known of his recruiting skills and tactics, made an immediate impact in his first season with the Rams. Fordham finished 16-16 this past season, with an 8-10 record in conference play — matching the highest conference win total in the program in 15 years. He also nabbed Will Richardson, the Rams’ first four-star commit in more than a decade.

Villanova is scheduled to have its end-of-year team banquet and awards night on Thursday.

While you’re still processing and recovering from the shockwaves, Daniel Ochefu put it best: