One hour hadn’t even passed yet following the news of Jay Wright’s retirement from Villanova. Amid the hysteria, wide mix of emotions, including the extremes — like fears of a giant reset button being hit to undo the 21 years it took for Jay Wright to build his strong foundation within the program — Daniel Ochefu offered some solace.
“Everyone stay calm,” he tweeted. “Only thing that’s changing is the name of the head coach. The culture can never die.”
Everyone stay calm. Only thing that’s changing is the name of the head coach. The culture can never die.— CHEF (@DanielOchefu32) April 20, 2022
While it was a wise nugget from someone who had walked the walk and played for Wright, it was easy to miss in a sea of thousands of tweets reacting to Wright’s sudden retirement.
So far, Ochefu has only been proven to be right.
Some fans were understandably afraid that a coaching change would mean possible de-commitments from Brendan Hausen, Mark Armstrong, and Cam Whitmore. In turn, the incoming freshmen trio may have felt some understandable disappointment for not getting to play for a Hall of Fame coach like Wright.
The trio relieved those fears, instead doubling down and re-affirming their commitment to Kyle Neptune and the Wildcats over the last few days.
The games haven’t been played yet, but it was a big win for the start of the Neptune era, as the pieces fell into the place and he went 3-for-3 in securing players vital to the program’s near future.
It was understandable to have some concern, but the trio’s re-commitment is an early sign that the culture is still very much here to stay. There were even hints of it months ago, when they all offered their commitments.
I’ve said it half-jokingly to people, “My first impression of the 2022 commits is that it’s felt like they’ve been in the program for years.”
Armstrong, Hausen and Whitmore haven’t even suited up for the ‘Cats yet, but they already talked like program vets and basketball robots, fully bought into the program’s values and culture.
Armstrong’s coach at St. Peter’s Prep (N.J.) even preaches “Attitude.” Hausen, a three-point shooter, is a perfect fit stylistically, but it wasn’t the X’s and O’s that enamored him, but rather “belonging with the family.”
As for Whitmore, his relationship with Wright and assistant Dwayne Anderson were key, but he’s most looking forward to just “hooping with Villanova in front of my chest.”
Whether or not their game will translate or how much of an immediate impact they will have remains to be seen, but their mind is already in the right place, especially in a college basketball universe that’s currently transfer-heavy.
No other Big East school that hired a new head coach has experienced this. Butler, Seton Hall and Xavier also welcomed new coaches during the offseason. They’ve also seen some departures and de-commitments.
Butler nearly lost its lone commit, Connor Turnbull, who briefly reopened his commitment following the hire of Thad Matta. While he decided to stay, there are still two Bulldogs who chose to enter the transfer portal.
At Seton Hall, Ryan Conway recently entered the transfer portal, and Percy Daniels ended up de-committing to play at Tulane instead of suiting up for Shaheen Holloway.
Sean Miller’s arrival at Xavier has led to the de-commitment of top 40-ranked Class of 2022 prospect Tyrell Ward. Dwon Odom, who appeared in 36 games and would’ve been a key returning rotational piece, also opted to transfer.
Outside of the Big East, it's a similar pattern among new coaching hires in college basketball.
When's the last time a roster and all incoming commits were retained following a coaching change? The Wildcats are definitely in rare company in this day and age.
Armstrong was the first to double down on Neptune, then Whitmore. Hausen locked things in following a visit on Tuesday.
Wright hasn’t even been retired for a week, and yet, all three still want to stay for Neptune.
No sales pitch or presentation works that quickly during an uncertain time, only a strong culture does.
While Wright will sorely be missed, the recent news from the incoming trio is a great sign that the fire is still burning strong as Neptune carries the torch.
With the incoming freshman class ready to go, the rest of the roster ready, Neptune can continue to deal with the rest of the housekeeping duties while preparing to move things forward for next November.