Villanova fans should brace themselves
Nobody said replacing a genius was easy. (Also: Michigan is really good)
Every time an athletic director hires a coach, they’re hoping to hire The One. With The One, life is easy. He (or she) builds a program and a culture. He wins games and championships. He becomes an avatar for your athletics program, for your entire university. He writes books, or has books written about him, or both. He changes perceptions locally, regionally, nationally. You experience a period of sustained, predictable, extremely high-level success, what the Sid Meier's Civilization games would describe as a Golden Age.
Jay Wright was this kind of coach. He made Villanova a national powerhouse, the Big East’s hegemon, a historic outsider underdog in a leafy suburb of Philly capable of winning two national titles in three seasons. In 2022, out of the blue, he decided to step away. Golden Ages end. Iconic coaches retire. Then comes the really hard part: Figuring out what to do next.
On Monday night, Villanova lost to Penn. It is worth noting Jay Wright also lost to Penn at the Palestra in in 2019, because upsets do occasionally happen in fierce local rivalries even with a talent disparity on the floor. But Villanova fans didn’t really want to hear about that when I tweeted it Tuesday night. Instead, I got two replies: “Kyle Neptune still a major concern. What exactly qualified him as the best candidate to take over one of the top 5 programs in America over the prior decade again??” And: “We suck dude. He’s an awful coach.”
It was not hard to find similar sentiment elsewhere on Twitter, people already giving up on Neptune, questioning why Wright was allowed to select his successor, wondering why Villanova didn’t conduct a national coaching search, why the program didn’t deem itself worthy of a deep dive for the best possible guy it could find.
And here’s why: Because it’s extremely hard to replace The One. Many programs never manage it — or, if they do, it tends to take a while.
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