Wright gets 1st national championship with Villanova

Published 8:59 am Tuesday, April 5, 2016

HOUSTON — Jay Wright may still be the best dressed coach in college basketball. Now he has a national championship to go with those expensive suits.

Not since Jim Valvano ran around looking for someone to hug has a coach had an ending to a season like this.

Kris Jenkins’ 3-pointer went through the net as time expired and Villanova beat North Carolina 77-74 on Monday night, giving the Wildcats their second national championship and first since 1985.

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Wright joins the list of coaches with one title, something that seemed far from his grasp the last few years. The Wildcats had great regular seasons but they couldn’t get to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament. Now they are on top and it’s time for people to recognize that Wright, who just completed his 15th season at Villanova and who reached the Final Four in 2009, is no longer just a regular season coach with Big East titles, he has a national championship.

“You’re like a parent when you’re a coach. I just couldn’t be prouder, couldn’t be happier to see them enjoy this and fulfill their dreams,” he said. “That’s what it’s all about for a coach, just to see their eyes, to see their satisfaction, their enjoyment. There’s no better feeling in the world for a coach or a parent.”

Roy Williams, the coach whose season ended when Jenkins’ shot went through, had a chance to become just the sixth man to win three national championships. Instead, he will remain tied with his mentor and former boss, Dean Smith, with two titles.

It was a heartbreaker for Williams, who has had his heart broken in other ways in the last 18 months, losing Smith and longtime Tar Heels assistant and head coach, Bill Guthridge.

“That coach out there on that court, cutting down those nets, is really proud of his team,” Williams said. “But I wouldn’t trade my team for anybody. I just wish I could have helped them a little bit more.”

Marcus Paige of North Carolina hit a 3-pointer with 4.7 seconds to play, tying the game at 74. It was a great shot, the kind that are remembered for a long time. Wright called a timeout and put the ball in senior Ryan Arcidiacono’s hands and he got the ball up court, turned his back to the basket and passed it to Jenkins. Now Jay Wright is the most recent coach to win a title on a buzzer-beater, and unlike Valvano when North Carolina State beat Houston in 1983, Wright turned and had a group hug with his assistants. Standing outside the group was Williams waiting to congratulate his counterpart.

Wright broke away and hugged Williams. One coach with his first title, the other 4.7 seconds from a third.

“That was one of the great college basketball games we’ve ever been a part of,” Wright said. “We didn’t just beat a great team, but a great program, classy program and before they determined that shot was good Roy came right up to me and said I’m really disappointed for our guys, it was a great game, but I’m really happy for you. I know he meant that.”

Williams had to go and face his team.

“You know, I’m not very good ‘cause I can’t take away the hurt,” Williams said of talking to his team in the locker room right after the game. “I’m not very good because I can’t change that. I told them I loved them. I told them I wished I could have helped them more. That I appreciated them from the bottom of my heart.

“The difference between winning and losing in college basketball is so small. The difference in your feelings is so large. But that’s the NCAA Tournament. That’s college basketball.”

The man who led Villanova to their first title 31 years ago, Rollie Massimino, was in attendance. Wright, who his assistant at UNLV in the 1990s, had his arm around his former boss as he did a radio interview courtside with former Georgetown coach John Thompson, Massimino’s opponent in his championship game.

“Everyone in coaching has to be given a chance by somebody. You don’t have internships or apprenticeships in coaching where you learn the craft. Somebody has to give you the opportunity, then they have to spend the time with you to teach you. He did that for me,” Wright said. “To share this with him, our Villanova people love him. He’s a magical figure.”

Wright, with even his gold tie clasp still in place, was looking the part of a well-dressed basketball coach, one who will soon have a ring to match.