Joe Santoliquito (@JSantoliquito)
Jay Wright needed a few weeks to decompress.
The Hall of Fame Villanova mens’ basketball coach was one of Gregg Popovich’s assistant coaches on the gold-medal winning United States Olympic basketball team, and for the first time since he returned back to Philadelphia, Wright addressed the media on Tuesday afternoon.
Jay Wright (above) was on the coaching staff during the 2021 Tokyo Olympics. (Photo courtesy USA Basketball)
Wright said he learned quite a lot from the 37-day experience and from Popovich that he’s sure to implement into the Wildcats’ schemes this coming season, but in typical Jay Wright fashion, he identified most with the grinders of the U.S. basketball team.
“They became their own team,” Wright said. “You love coaching them all, but I was really impressed by Jerami Grant coming off the bench, not playing much and keeping a great attitude. Keldon Johnson the same way; JaVale McGee. Those three were awesome. You have pros like that making a ton of money and not playing, and keeping a great attitude, I thought they were awesome.”
In one game, Wright was calling a defensive switch. Wright and Lloyd Pierce handled the defense, Wright explained, while Steve Kerr and Popovich handled the offense.
“It was definitely worth it and I’m just happy to be home,” said Wright, who will be awarded with an Olympic gold medal presented by USA Basketball. “There’s a lot (that was learned). A lot of things that we did offensively in the pick-and-roll offense, cutting terminology and a lot of things are terminology and concepts, because we had to play off of concepts playing different teams.
Wright was an easy choice for USA Basketball. In 20 seasons at Villanova, Wright has gained acclaim by leading 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.
In January 2020, Wright was named the Associated Press men's college basketball Coach of the Decade and on March 9, 2021, and May 2021 was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
At Villanova, Wright has compiled a 490-190 record for a .722 winning percentage in his 20 seasons, leading the Wildcats to eight Big East Conference championships (2006, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019. 2020 and 2021), four Big East Tournament titles (2015, 2017, 2018 and 2019) and 15 NCAA Tournament appearances. Included in those 15 NCAA Tournament appearances are three Final Fours, four Elite Eights and seven Sweet Sixteen appearances.
There is not another coach as decorated in the rich Philadelphia basketball tradition as Wright.
The Olympic gold medal is a cherry on top.
“I loved the Olympics growing up. I loved watching elite athletes competing for their country and I never dreamt about being in it. The 2016 Olympics, and they asked me and Pop to come out and coach the select team. I knew they were going to ask Pop, but I started to think maybe I could (for 2020).
“Winning that (gold medal) and doing that with that group of guys, and this particular Olympics, knowing you did it for your country and going through what this team went through was truly one of the great experiences I ever had in sports, any sport, especially basketball. It was an incredibly rewarding and exhilarating feeling when we finally won the gold.”
Wright injury updates
Collin Gillespie is back after rehabbing from surgery to repair the torn MCL in his left knee. Dhamir Cosby-Roundtree is recovering from surgery in January to repair a tibial stress fracture in his left leg. Caleb Daniels had remaining issues with COVID during the summer and was cleared at the end of July. Jermaine Samuels played last season with a broken finger, which required surgery and was out until the end of July. Angelo Brizzi had his tonsils out and missed a portion of the summer.
“Everyone is back, Collin included, Dhamir is progressing slow,” Wright said. “He is still not 100%. Some of being because he’s been out for so long, and some of it still being with his shin bone.
A 6-8 forward out of Neumann-Goretti, Cosby-Roundtree has played in 105 games in a Villanova uniform (17 starts), averaging 3.3 ppg and 3.5 rpg in 13.5 mpg overall. But he hasn’t played since the end of the 2019-20 season, leg issues forcing him to undergo surgery from which he still hasn’t fully recovered.
“I’m really hoping for (the middle of September for Cosby-Roundtree’s return),” Wright added. “If he’s going to come back, how long is it going to take for him to be really effective? If it’s going to take until January, do we waste a year on him doing that? We start practicing the 28th of September and we’re going to try and make some type of decision.”
Joseph Santoliquito is an award-winning sportswriter based in the Philadelphia area who began writing for CoBL in 2021 and is the president of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be followed on Twitter here.