The last time Villanova won a National Championship in 2016, the Phoenix Suns came calling for head coach Jay Wright’s services. After he swiftly declined, Phoenix settled on their interim option Earl Watson who put together a poor track record during his tenure replacing Jeff Horancek.
Two years later, Wright did it again. And this time, it was in even grander fashion.
Not only did the Villanova Wildcats cruise to another championship, they utterly dominated all competition. Outside of Texas Tech’s stifling defense causing Wright to change his modern scheme up just a tad in a nip-and-tuck contest, it was a showcase to all NBA teams with possible openings how innovative he truly is.
During his time in San Antonio for the Final Four, Wright was asked who has influenced his offense as of late. He mentioned not only Steve Kerr, but Mike D’Antoni’s innovative attack. Not only is Wright raining three-pointers at a historic rate for a college program, but he’s doing so from usually NBA range and utilizing an awesome motion-like system.
Whether he leaves his possible dynasty growing in Philadelphia is the multi-million dollar question, but there are no doubts in my mind the Suns and others will be very intrigued at the possibility of an interview to secure his services.
Alongside names such as David Fizdale, Igor Kokoskov, and Virginia’s Tony Bennett, Wright far and away seems like a candidate who will have multiple offers on the table. Not only that, but he has the possibility of tripling the amount of money he makes now.
Teams who are vying to build a team around Wright on the professional level will have to have this question answered: what’s there left to prove for him there? No doubts about it Wright will be in the NCAA Hall of Fame for his work accomplished there, so franchises hope is he ready to tackle his next challenge.
If now was ever the time, it would be now. That also means now is the time for a team like Phoenix to get into aggressive action to try and persuade him.
Including Jay Triano deserving an interview, I mentioned five other candidates including Wright previously. After thinking more on this and watching Wright’s performance in the tournament, he has to be the top target the Suns go after in their coaching search.
It’s time to try and see whether two more years will make the difference in securing Wright and money will obviously play a gigantic factor. When inspecting closer the recent college to NBA transitions for coaches, here’s how each was paid:
- Brad Stevens: 6 years, $22 million in 2013
- Fred Hoiberg: 5 years, $25 million in 2015
- Billy Donovan: 5 years, $30 million in 2015
With a coach with the pedigree of Donovan earning long-term security and $6 million per season, I imagine the figure to get Wright would wind up around $6.5-7 annually. General manager Ryan McDonough mentioned recently money won’t be a problem in securing a coach, so a contract around $40 million over 6 years might be the way it takes for Wright to leave a possible college dynasty.
All coaches who are paid $6 million per and above are classified in the top 10 for highest paid around the league. For the Suns, this is what it will take since Wright makes $2.6 million right now at Villanova but according to Arizona Sports’ John Gambadoro, Villanova might be preparing to offer him a raise to $4 million.
That same notion goes for all candidates who want to join what’s going in Phoenix, too.
When players are developed in a structured system that prioritizes player development, they get better over time and sometimes the results are outstanding, something not ever expected.
At Villanova, Wright has been doing this while teaching the right way how to play basketball. And it’s apparent in the recruiting rankings each season that nobody does more with less than him from a talent standpoint.
Here are the most notable prospects Wright has had under his tutelage outside of this season with Mikal Bridges and likely National Player of the Year Jalen Brunson: Kyle Lowry, Randy Foye, and Dante Cunningham.
As you can see, it’s a major accomplishment what Wright has been able to pull off year-in, year-out in the Big East.
Speaking of Bridges, he’s the perfect case study of this whole Wright-to-Phoenix possibility. Not only did this long, gangly wing walk on as a freshman at Villanova but he was not a good shooter when he first arrived.
After Bridges redshirted, he only shot 29.9% from beyond the arc. However, in his likely final bow under Wright, he was draining contested threes not only on Monday night but all year long. Bridges jumped all the way up from below 30% to an above-average clip of 43.5%.
It’s hard not to imagine what Wright could do with current non-shooters like Josh Jackson and T.J. Warren. Also, Phoenix’s two young big men in Dragan Bender and Marquese Chriss would benefit greatly from an offensive system that this coach would entail.
When I dove even further to how Phoenix could bring Wright out of his perch in the college ranks, age correlations are hard to deny here. Based off of my calculations, Villanova’s 15-man roster came out to be an average of 21.2 years old. Meanwhile, the Suns when you remove perspective free agents and veterans equate to 22.7.
With only about an 18-month discrepancy in terms of age alongside way more talent, that could tip the scales in the Suns’ favor if Wright decides to head in a new direction after winning it all again.
Right now, if I were in a position to do so, I would move forward on chasing Wright to be the head coach during Devin Booker’s second contract and hopefully beyond.
If Wright were to decline the Suns again, this time with a likely lucrative offer featuring years of security to see his vision through, there are still other candidates who fit the billing but this should be priority No. 1.
Buckle in, because we are about one week away from a topsy-turvy offseason filled with unknowns.
The first domino falling will be finding the new head coach, and Wright has all the makings of being the next college coach to successfully transition over if Phoenix comes prepared with an offer ready to blow him away.