Brewer Interviews Head Coach of Villanova Men’s Basketball, Jay Wright

Coach Jay Wright. Photo: Villanova Athletics

Sitting in the brewery office, my cell phone rings on the table. Two rings and I grab the call. The voice on the other end is familiar. I’d heard it years ago. To be specific, nine years ago in-person. Just a few months ago, though, I’d heard it again on TV.

If you were watching TV on April 4, 2016, you probably noticed there was a college basketball game on, featuring two of the country’s top teams — the University of North Carolina and Villanova University. The tall, dark-haired, suited and stoic Head Coach of Villanova led a team of men to their first National Championship win since 1985.

I was honored, and lucky enough, to get Coach Jay Wright on the phone at 12:15 P.M., Wednesday, July 27th from the brewery office. When I hung up, I immediately understood how Coach was able to take 18-year-old kids and turn them into champions.

Vaughan Cutillo: First off, thanks for taking the time for this interview, Coach. It’s an honor! So, I know you received the beers I sent after the Championship victory. Gotta ask, who’d you have the first beer with?

Coach: I’d never had the beer, so I wanted to try it immediately! I was actually alone in my home office watching a new recruit video when I opened the first can. I love the stuff! We had it in our pool house at the Shore, but they didn’t last too long. We still use the beer sleeves (koozies) around the pool; they’re great. Thanks for those.

VC: Speaking of recruits, when you meet a new player, what are you looking for that sets them apart?

Coach: Obviously we are looking at very high talent levels to start. After that, we get into basically a full blown investigation. We focus on character, work (practice) ethic, education, how the individual treats his teammates and how they handle winning and losing. We also want to educate each recruit on the Villanova culture. We want each kid to understand that their experience here will bring out the absolute best in them.

Whether it be 1-3 seconds, or 4-7 seconds, we have certain plays drawn up. The guys executed beautifully in that moment. No fear of failure. I was proud before the win.

VC: The crew is having a pickup football game; you’re my pick. Where do I put you to win?

Coach: Offense, I’m quarterback. Each year, our family has the Turkey Bowl; my sons are quarterbacks, so I have to show them a thing or two. Defense, I’d be safety. No man-to-man for me, I like to read the QB’s eyes and survey the field from the back.

VC: You’ve taught so many players throughout your career. What have they taught you?

Coach: That’s a great one, great question. After the Championship, we came back and the staff really looked into the run, how our players dealt with the tournament and the entire season. The parents of our players this year were more impactful than the coaching actually. They taught their kids humility, character — that was all instilled by the parents. We do a lot of our recruiting by looking at the character of each kid, and that really came from their parents.

VC: You’ve coached some tremendous talent throughout your career. If you could put your Dream Squad together—past or present players from Villanova, who do you pick?

Coach: Wow, that isn’t easy. I’d have to go with:

VC: The moment. The NCAA Championship win. Tell me about that.

Coach: [Pause] You know we always go back to the word “attitude” on our team. Leading up to that finish, a couple of things happened. Ochefu tripped and Paige hit that double clutch three to tie at 74. The guys came back to the bench, and I could see it in their eyes. They looked at each other, the bench looked back, clapped and said the words, “Attitude, Attitude.” I knew right there that they believed in the culture of the team, the school and themselves.

Whether it be 1-3 seconds, or 4-7 seconds, we have certain plays drawn up. The guys executed beautifully in that moment. No fear of failure. I was proud before the win.

VC: [Speechless. It gave me chills hearing that part]. Are you a golfer?

Coach: [Laughing] Oh yeah. I love golf.

VC: What’s your handicap?

Coach: I’m a 13.5 index.

VC: When’s the last time you played?

Coach: [Laughing again] If I went out today I wouldn’t be a 13.5, that’s for sure. I played mid-June maybe. This summer’s been crazy. We’re going to Spain soon and when I get back, yeah, I’ll definitely play some golf.

VC: If you were given my assignment, interview someone. Who would you pick?

Coach: Funny, I was just out in Las Vegas with the Olympic Team helping out Gregg Popovich and Mike Krzyzewski, so I spent some serious time recently with those guys. But I’d say I’d pick them. Those guys are great men and coaches.

VC: So what does the future hold for Coach Wright?

Coach: You know what, I’ll concentrate year by year. I want to focus on the program, on academics, on athletics, on the players. The social component is very important to me. I want to help these guys grow as men. The consistency of excellence in values is very important to me, and to everyone at Villanova.

Congratulations to Coach Wright on being named 2016 Naismith Trophy Men’s Coach of the Year!

A photo posted by Villanova Basketball (@novambb) on

VC: So this is my first interview! How’d I do? What’d I miss?

Coach: [Thinking awhile] Hmm, you did a pretty good job!

VC: Thanks, Coach!

Coach: I saw you guys are surfers out there… well I’m into kayak surfing. Ever hear of it?

VC: I’ve seen some people do it.

Coach: It’s great for a guy like me, I love it! Come back and see us at Nova soon!

VC: Go Nova!

Keep up with Coach and this year’s squad, as they begin their trek to another national championship, via the Nova Men’s Basketball Instagram. Good luck, and thanks Coach!