With Villanova’s Jay Wright appearances aren’t everything.
Regularly referred to as the best dressed coach in all of college basketball, it’s easy to believe he’s all style and no substance. Watch any Villanova game and the announcers will, at one point or another, mention his well-tailored suits and reference his impeccable fashion sense.
Even his own players refer to him as “GQ Jay,” something USA Today recently glommed on to as it focused solely on his looks.
But over the past month, Wright has shattered the stereotypes culminating in last night’s thrilling NCAA championship win over the North Carolina Tar Heels. In what may arguably be one of the best games in college basketball history, his team brought a second championship to the tiny Augustinian school of 10,000 students located outside Philadelphia.
The last time Villanova won was 1985, when it shocked the world, beating a heavily favored Georgetown team featuring Patrick Ewing. Widely considered the greatest upset in all of college basketball, that team had to shoot an incredible 78.6 percent to topple Goliath, representing the highest shooting percentage for any college team.
Second on the list is Villanova. This year’s team shot 71.4 percent in its semifinal win over the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday night, holding Naismith Player of the Year Buddy Hield to only 9 points. Saturday’s performance was overshadowed by what Wright and his team of relative unknowns accomplished last night.
And so no longer will Wright be known just for his wardrobe. This is something longtime fans of the school have known all along.
Wright has built a program that is a consistent winner though he went through some initial hardships to get there. Hired in 2001, Wright spent his first three years toiling in mediocrity, leading the team to a 21-27 record and three NIT appearances. Add on a phone card scandal that led to suspensions of several players and probation, and it appeared as if Wright was leading a sinking ship.
Building a Winner
But then a funny thing happened – Villanova began to win. In his fourth season, Wright led his team to a 24-8 record and a trip to the Sweet 16. Wright’s record after that, speaks for itself: four more Sweet 16 appearances, three Elite Eights, two Final Fours, four Big East titles and nearly 500 career wins. And now a national championship.
But the numbers alone don’t speak to why Wright has been so successful. It goes much deeper than that.
First, Wright has a love for those he coaches. He talks about his seniors – Ryan Arcidiacano and Daniel Ochefu – with a real respect. Watch him get emotional (blocked by some killer shades) as he speaks about the pair kissing the V at the school’s home court for the final time before departing for the Final Four in Houston.
At Villanova, Wright hasn’t amassed any huge stars like Kentucky, North Carolina or Duke. He’s achieved success thanks to those who have bought into his system. They are essentially the opposite of how he has long been perceived – little flash, lots of substance.
His players stay the entire four years, helping build a loyalty to the school for his players and a loyalty to the players for the fans.
And in the biggest of all moments – when Kris Jenkins hit the three-pointer to stun North Carolina, he displayed a class and humility, understanding that this moment belonged not to him, but his players.
Wright also understands the importance of the past, connecting former players and coaches, including Rollie Massimino, the fiery Italian who led the 1985 team to the school’s previous NCAA championship, to the current one. It’s mentioned in this USA Today article, and shows that Wright has a respect for those that have come before, forging a bond with those that are responsible for making the program what it is.
And while many college coaches opt for the NBA – Rick Pitino and John Calipari among them – Wright has maintained his allegiance to the Villanova program, so there is a real affinity between the school, its students and fans and its head coach.
In the end, last night’s victory proved that someone like Wright can be successful with both style AND substance. They are not mutually exclusive. And in some cases, they are the recipe for building a champion.
This week, we’re asking you to channel your inner-Jay Wright and do so with style, substance and class. You can find that here in our line of Ray-Bans, a brand that has withstood the test of time (they were founded in 1937) and continue to be a proven winner. At the head of the class are the Ray-Ban Aviators which are the stuff of champions – good enough to make Jay Wright proud.
Words of an Icon: “It’s not about enjoying the moment. Because once you lose the game, there is no enjoyment.” – Jay Wright