By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — There have been some great ones in the Philadelphia area. John Chaney, Jack Ramsey, Chuck Daley, Jimmy Lynam, Dick Harter, Jack McCloskey, Jack Kraft, Herb Magee, Harry Litwack, Ken Loeffler, Phil Martelli, Fran Dunphy and Rollie Massimino. All great college basketball coaches, all well respected, and all well thought of nationally.
But now, there is one coach that stands above that pantheon and most probably secured his place in Springfield, Massachusetts, in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and that’s Villanova coach Jay Wright.
There may not be a better college basketball coach in the nation right now. And who will argue that, after Wright directed the Wildcats to their second national championship in three years, after their 79-62 demolition of Michigan in San Antonio, Texas.
What makes Wright unique is that he coaches to his talent. This version of the Wildcats was different than the 2016 National Championship squad—and possibly better. The 2017-18 NCAA national champion Wildcats brought all of the good qualities that Wright abides by—good defense, leadership and teamwork.
Though it was a team noted for its high-powered offense, the best offense ever in the rich history of college basketball in the Philadelphia area, these Wildcats won various ways. It was offense and the three-point shot that spelled the demise of Kansas in the semifinal game of the Final Four, owning the Final Four single-game record for most three-pointers (18), the most three-pointers made in the NCAA Tournament (76) and the most three-pointers made in a single season (464)—including the 10 made by the Wildcats in the national title victory over Michigan.
It was defense that led to the victory over Texas Tech, and with star guard Jalen Brunson out for more minutes than Wright would have liked in the championship game, Wright turned to his bench, which basically won the game.
Donte DiVincenzo joined the elite group of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Walton and Jack “Goose” Givens for players that have scored 30 or more points on over 66 percent shooting in the national title game. But what may be remembered more than DiVincenzo’s instant offense off the bench was his two blocked shots.
Defense had been an area of DiVincenzo’s game that Wright stressed needed improving. So, it wasn’t really a surprise when DiVincenzo said he was most proud of the two blocks in the title game than the game-high 31 points on 10-for-15 shooting.
Over the last three years, Villanova is a mind-boggling 102-13, for a winning percentage of 88.7 percent.
Over the last five years, the Wildcats were either a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in their respective region.
At the foundation of it all is Wright.
There will be a statue of Wright someday standing somewhere on the Villanova campus. It will be richly deserved and should include the inscription: Best mens’ college basketball coach in the history of Philadelphia.
Who would argue that now?