Jay Wright had nothing left to prove in college basketball

Jay Wright had nothing left to prove in college basketball

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The first reaction is shock, only because it’s mid-April and college basketball tends to die out after the Final Four and we’re not conditioned to believe the idea that coaches might want do something else for the rest of their lives.

But then, almost immediately, it all makes sense. Of course, Jay Wright is retiring. Of course, he was exhausted from a sport that took him more than 30 years to conquer. Of course, the coach who built college basketball’s most enviable program turned 60, looked at what he had accomplished and what was left of his life, and decided enough was enough.

That’s what normal people are supposed to do: work until they drop, make enough money to retire and live the lifestyle they want, then walk away.

In reality, Wright’s decision to hand Villanova over to someone else after 21 seasons, two national titles and four Final Four appearances should come as no surprise. As usual, Wright shows us how.

Now is not the time to bemoan the state of college basketball or the NCAA or how much more complicated coaches’ lives are now because of the transfer portal and the injection of money for name, l image and likeness in the recruitment process.

Coaching is no different from every job in every area of ​​American life which has its complications and frustrations. We all have to grow professionally or be left behind.

The question for all of us is, when can we say we no longer need the aggravation, long hours and pressure to accomplish what we are meant to do? As the money grows in college coaching, to the point that a single five-year contract at a power conference school should provide enough financial security for a few generations, we’ll eventually get used to it. Someone like Wright retiring at the top of his game with plenty of good years to play won’t just be the norm, it will become the goal.

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Looking back, Wright may have warned us all of his mindset during the Final Four a few weeks ago. At a press conference the day before Villanova’s game against Kansas, he was asked what he thought it would do for Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, knowing he was at the end of a career legendary after announcing almost a year ago that the 2021-22 season would be his last.

“It must be mind-blowing,” Wright said. “I would be lying if I told you no – you think about it after every year, you think about where your life is at, what you are going to do. It’s hard to think about it.

“And honestly, if you’re him and you’ve been doing it for so long and you’ve been so successful and it’s such a part of your life and you think the longer you do it, the more relationships you have, and those relationships are meaningful to you, so you’re not their coach anymore – that’s probably something that must be very difficult to deal with And again, I’m thinking about it because there’s going to have to be a when it’s time for the next Villanova coach. There’s going to have to be that moment. You have to pick that moment. I think Mike did it extremely smart. And it must be really tough.

You don’t give such an answer if the notion of retirement first occurred to Wright last week. We hadn’t necessarily realized it at the time, but he had clearly been thinking about this moment for a while.

There’s a generation of people for whom coaches like Krzyzewski, Nick Saban and Jim Boeheim, who clings stubbornly to Syracuse, were the American dream. They were raised by working-class WWII-era families.

But those days are over. We will never see their kind again.

The job is too stressful. The money is too big. And the perspective on what is meaningful in life simply shifts from generation to generation.

From this point on, Wright no longer has to worry about his next recruiting trip or the next AAU coach he has to call or what his roster is going to look like in 2024. His big decisions will be the destination that wants to spend a weekend. , what kid to go see and what TV job he wants to do.

Wright realized all there was to a profession he entered in 1984 as an assistant in Rochester, which he certainly didn’t do for the money. All these years later, he has put himself in a position to enjoy the time he has left in his life as he wants and where he wants.

Sounds like a deal most of us would be happy to take.

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