Big East coaches are already referring to Villanova's Jay Wright as a Naismith Hall of Famer | Zagsblog
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Monday / December 9.
  • Big East coaches are already referring to Villanova’s Jay Wright as a Naismith Hall of Famer

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    By ADAM ZAGORIA

    The 2019 Class for the Naismith Hall of Fame won’t be announced until the Final Four in April, but Big East coaches are already openly referring to Villanova’s Jay Wright as a future member of the Hall.

    “Obviously, Villanova’s been the standard-bearer in our league and rightly so,” Marquette’s Steve Wojciechowski said Thursday. “They’ve had outstanding teams and they got a Hall of Fame coach.”

    Wright, 57, is a slam dunk to make the Hall of Fame this year — “He will be [in],” one Big East coach told me — and when he does he’ll become the seventh active college coach in the Hall. Already in are Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim, Kentucky’s John Calipari, Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski, Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, Kansas’ Bill Self and North Carolina’s Roy Williams.

    Among them, only Coach (5) and Williams (3) have more NCAA championships than Wright (2).

    So to be clear, Wright has more NCAA titles than Boeheim, Calipari, Izzo or Self — who all have one each.

    For his career, Wright is 558-258 (.684).

    Seton Hall coach Kevin Willard said Wright, known affectionately as “GQ Jay” because of his sharp-dressed style, doesn’t get enough credit for his coaching abilities.

    “I think you’re looking at probably the elite coach in college basketball right now,” said Willard, whose team lost by 28 points to Villanova on Jan. 27. “He’s developed his system, he recruits his system. But I think he does not get enough credit for how good of a game coach he is, how well he manages the game. Every time I’ve played against him and every time I’ve watched one of his team’s play, he is by far probably the best basketball coach in the country. I think we’re very lucky  to have him in the lague and he doesn’t get enough credit for just how good of a game coach he is.”

    Despite losing four players to the NBA Draft in 2018 after beating Michigan in the NCAA title game, Wright has Villanova at 19-4 and a perfect 10-0 in the Big East. That is the program’s best start ever in the league, and the first 10-0 start since UConn in 1998-99.

    If the NCAA Tournament started today, Villanova would be a No. 4 seed, according to ESPN’s Joe Lunardi.

    After a rough start in which they twice lost back-to-back games (to Michigan and Furman and later Penn and then-No. 1 Kansas), Villanova has rattled off 11 straight wins.

    “The job that [Phil] Booth] and [Eric] Paschall have done as leaders just jumps off the page, and a lot of their younger guys are really stepping up for them now,” Wojciechowski said.

    Wright has managed to work in  younger guys like Saddiq Bey, Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree and Jermaine Samuels along with grad transfer Joe Cremo. 

    Wright called Bey a “dream freshman” and “one of those guys who just listens, he’s physically ready and his competitive spirit was ready for this level coming in.”

    “I have so much respect for Jay and what they’ve done as a program,” said Wojciechowski, whose team hosts Villanova in a critical Big East game on Saturday. “In preparing for them, it’s not fun but you’ve got to admire how well they’ve come along as a team.”

    For all his accomplishments, Wright has never had a one-and-done player, but that could change soon.

    Villanova’s four-man class for 2019 is ranked No. 2 nationally by 247Sports.com and features two McDonald’s All-Americans in Ranney (N.J.) guard Bryan Antoine and IMG Academy (FL) forward Jeremiah Robinson-Earl.

    The 6-foot-4 Antoine is a projected lottery pick in 2020 by ESPN.com.

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    Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle. A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013. He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.