Phil Sheridan wrote about Jay Wright’s Philadelphia legacy in this weekend’s Philadelphia Inquirer — http://www.philly.com/philly/sports/homepage/20090322_Phil_Sheridan__Wright_establishing_his_own_legacy_at__Nova.html
Wright has a much larger opportunity in front of him this week. By beating Coach K in the NCAA men’s basketball regional semifinal, he will take a major step forward as a leading coach on the national stage. His successes at Villanova have been notable largely because his defeats at tournament time arrived at the hands of eventual champions.
The same result must not occur this year.
Villanova University has transformed itself from a provincial island of an educational institution into a dynamic, world-class university over the last twenty five years. The prominence of the basketball program contributed heavily to this transformation — both in terms of public relations, budget revenues, and alumni giving.
Wright does not have to win a national title to affect a new level of capital success for University President, Father Peter Donahue. However, a Final Four appearance in one of the most competitive tournaments in recent memory would provide an enormous lift to the school.
It could also provide a leading light to Philadelphia as a resurgent city over the next year. The Phillies baseball championship broke William Penn’s curse (along with the small statue at the top of the Comcast Building). Metropolitan Philadelphia continues to grow dramatically as the cultural and economic hub between New York and Washington. Villanova could position itself as one of the top five schools in the region — with increased national and international appeal — if next weekend is as victorious as this past one.
For Wright, the implications are much more personal, however. He is a charismatic and creative leader of young men. He is probably the most popular of the local coaches right now. However, he has not shown the same strategic command of X’s and O’s on the court that Phil Martelli or Fran Dunphy has. Wright’s imprint of toughness and athleticism shines on his players as they challenge and overcome bigger, stronger opponents. It is time for him to bring that same edge and attitude to this confrontation with Coach K.
Beating Duke establishes Jay Wright as one of the nation’s top 5 coaches for the next decade, especially with the outstanding recruiting class he has compiled for the 2009-2010 season.
I stand behind you, Jay. All of Nova Nation does.