Coaches Corner: Jay Wright
The head men’s basketball coach at Villanova University, Jay Wright was a USA assistant coach at the 2019 FIBA World Cup, and he will be an assistant coach for the United States at the Tokyo Olympic Games this summer.
He also led the USA to a gold medal at the 2005 World University Games as head coach, and he was an assistant coach for the USA at the 2000 World Championship for Young Men Qualifying Tournament that finished with a silver medal. Wright coached a USA Basketball team of collegians in the 2007 Pan American Games to a fifth-place finish, and he served as co-head coach of 2010 USA Select Team that trained with the 2010 USA World Cup Team. He returned as current USA National Team head coach Gregg Popovich’s assistant coach for the 2016 USA Select Team that trained with the 2016 U.S. Olympic Team, and he was an assistant coach during the 2018 USA Men’s National Team minicamp.
Now in his 20th season as Villanova’s head coach (2001-02 to present), Wright has guided the Wildcats to three NCAA Final Fours and a pair of NCAA National Championships (2016 and 2018). He is one of only three active NCAA Division I men’s head coaches with multiple national championships to his credit.
Wright in January 2020 was named the Associated Press men's college basketball Coach of the Decade.
Through the 2019-20 season, Wright has compiled 472-182 record at Villanova for a .722 winning percentage. He has led Villanova to seven Big East Conference championships (2006, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019 and 2020), four Big East Tournament titles (2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019) and 14 NCAA Tournament appearances.
USA Basketball spoke with Wright to get his insight and perspective on coaching.
What are the most important things for you to accomplish early in the season?
At the beginning of the season, we're mostly trying to get our fundamentals down – our core concepts, offensive and defensive. So, we're trying to get a lot of reps in early. And then we build off that, based on each year, how good our team is and how quickly we pick up our core concepts.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned in your coaching career?
Probably how important attitude is. The word attitude is big in our program, and it's important for me as a coach and as a leader, and it's important for our players on the court. Over the length of a career, there's a lot of ups and there's a lot of downs. As you look back, you realize some of the failures you had really, they weren't all your fault, and some of the successes you had were just good fortune. So, you don't have control of everything you think you do. What you do have control of is how you respond to failures. That should be with a positive attitude and with humility in successes.
What is the most challenging aspect of coaching for you?
Definitely the most challenging thing about coaching, for me is balancing your family time and your family commitments. Because your basketball team is your family, and you want to spend every second you can with those guys. And then, you have your own family and you can’t get caught up in your basketball family so much that you neglect your family. It's always a tough balance.
Is there one overall defensive principle you think is most important?
You know, that has changed over the years. If you asked me that question 10 years ago, my answer might be different. But I think right now, in recent years the most important thing is the ability to keep a dribbler in front of you and to be able to contain the dribbler. No matter what position you play, you have got to be able to keep a guy in front of you and not let him break down the defense and start rotations. Because, now when you start rotations you are forced to scramble.