VILLANOVA, Pa. — Bang.
Jay Wright calmly mouthed one word when Kris Jenkins hit the 3-pointer at the buzzer that won Villanova a national championship. The Wildcats returned home the next day for a pep rally at the campus football stadium, and their celebratory victory tour has barely slowed down since April.
The White House. Wall Street. The ESPYs. The ticker tape parade. The Philadelphia professional sports teams feted the Wildcats with first pitch, first puck, first tip fun. Wright delivered a pep talk to the Eagles. Basketball and Basilica in Spain. What’s the next chapter? Read all about it in Wright’s upcoming book, “Attitude.”
Wright sat down with The Associated Press to talk about his favorite moments from a summer where the Wildcats reigned as the national champions. Here are some of his memories from what Wright called, “a wild offseason. Wild. And great.”
HAIL TO THE CHAMPS
President Barack Obama welcomed Villanova in May to the White House and congratulated the Wildcats for winning what he described as “maybe the best title game of all time.”
Waiting to be introduced, Wright chitchatted with Obama where the two discussed, well, basketball, of course. Obama’s brother-in-law is former college hoops player and Oregon State coach Craig Robinson and the president fills out an NCAA Tournament bracket every year. He even picked the Wildcats to win the national championship in 2015 (and lost).
“He really knows our business, really knows it well,” Wright said. “It’s funny to hear the president of the United States say how difficult a job we have. And you’re hearing it from the president! But we had a really insightful conversation about college coaching that was awesome to me.”
‘CATS & BIRDS:
Wright was invited by the Philadelphia Eagles to give a private pep talk to coaches and players in June.
“It was all about just being loyal to each other, the Eagles, the coaches and players. They’re my favorite team,” Wright said. “I had met (coach) Doug Pederson because of (former coach) Andy Reid and I was friends with Andy.
“I would say the talk with the President was first and then the Eagles, that was really cool.”
Wright was in Washington for a leadership summit at the Pentagon when he met Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw back in 2014. Kershaw was in town to face the Nationals and the two bumped into each other at the Ritz.
Kershaw was excited to reunite with Wright two years later on the red carpet for the ESPYs .
“He was like, ‘I want to take a picture with the ring. I’ve got to get one of those, I don’t have one of those,'” Wright said, laughing.
Kershaw then threw Wright a curve — that the Wildcats weren’t going to win any awards.
“He said, ‘Did you win?'” Wright said. “I was like, well, we were nominated for three. As he said it, I realized, we would know if we won. He kind of started backing off. ‘No, no, no. I just remember last year I was up for one and the guy who won knew he won.’ It hit me before we went in there, we probably didn’t win. We would have known if we won.”
The Wildcats stamped their passports for an eight-day tour of Spain that included three exhibition games against Spanish Select teams . The Wildcats toured Barcelona and Madrid in relative anonymity and avoided mobs of autograph seekers.
Little known fact, Villanova is named for a Spanish Augustinian, Thomas García (1486-1555), the son of a miller who was born in Fuenllana, a village near Villanueva de los Infantes, Castile, Spain.
Known fact, fans know who the Wildcats are in Philadelphia.
“We got back and people started taking pictures of us again,” Wright said. “It smacked us right in the face. In Spain, no one knew us. No one bothered us. But we got smacked in the face waiting for our bags. Everybody started asking for pictures because we were all together. It was all just a smack in the face of reality.”
Wright has watched a replay of the national championship game twice. He watched it with a coach’s eye on the plane ride back from Houston and one more time with his family just days after the championship parade in Philadelphia.
“We listened to timeouts, we listened to Raff and Jim Nantz and Grant Hill,” he said. “We tried to get a feel for what people really saw and listened to. It took us like, three hours to watch the game. We kept rewinding stuff. We had a lot of fun with it. That was it. That was the last time.”
But video of Jenkins’ shot is on a continuous loop plays in the lobby of Villanova’s basketball complex — and the fun hasn’t ended yet.
“It’s been everything,” Wright said. “But we started practice on Friday and I kind of feel like officially, it’s over.”