Reigning national champion college basketball
coach applies lessons learned at Bucknell
By Matt Zencey
hen his team took the floor with 4. 7 seconds left and the score tied in last year’s
NCAA men’s basketball championship game, Jay Wright ’83 was one of the calmest
people in a building filled with 74,000 roaring fans.
During the timeout, his Villanova Wildcats had been laser-focused, without any prompting
from him, and they came out ready to run a play they had practiced repeatedly.
“I was so proud, so pleased with how they competed the entire game. I was so happy
coming out of that huddle — where their minds were, where their hearts were,” he says. “I
wasn’t living and dying on that [last] shot.” He knew that either his players would make a shot
and win, or the game would go to overtime.
As the final tenths of a second ticked off the clock, Kris Jenkins hoisted a long three-point
shot that swished through the net, winning Villanova and Wright the national championship.
Soon commentators everywhere were talking about Wright’s amazingly subdued reaction
to the historic win. He looked as if he’d just been handed the day’s mail. Ho-hum.
Later, he told the media that he was briefly unsure whether the referees had officially
declared that time ran out and the game was over. Confirming that, he gave a now-famous
shrug and proceeded with the traditional postgame handshakes.
“Of course, I was thrilled to win the national championship, and I would never give it back,”
he says. However, “we are not evaluating ourselves on whether we won or lost, but on how we
comported ourselves — how the guys compete, how they play together. … Our goal was never
to win a national championship. Our goal was, ‘Let’s see what is the best this team can be.’ ”