Jay Wright, the Head Coach of the National Champion Villanova Wildcats, was on hand at Big East Media Day on Tuesday at Madison Square Garden.
Wright spoke to the media about Kris Jenkins’ buzzer beater to win the championship last season and his perspective after it, recruiting Jenkins and Kris Hart, and his philosophy on what type of player he likes at Villanova.
On how long it took Kris Jenkins to develop into the player Wright wanted him to be:
He’s a guy that we took a chance on because of his weight and his conditioning, and a lot of times you make a plan for a guy and you tell him. Our recruiting of him was ‘if you’re going to come here, this is what you’re going to have to do. You have to get down to this weight, this body fat. This is what you’re going to have to do to do it.’ Rarely does a guy come in and do exactly what you ask him to do. He is exactly what we dreamed he would be. We would have been okay even if he was a little less than that, but he did everything we asked him to do every year. He’s going to be in the best shape of his life this season, and we said to him, ‘it’s is a process, it’s a four year process.’ You don’t just come in, change your weight, change your lifestyle, change your game. He was a center in high school, developed him into a guard. You don’t just do that overnight, and he has done it. He’s a dream, I’m telling you. When you take a chance on a guy and hope everything works out perfectly, he did.
On how the buzzer-beater that Jenkins hit to win the National Championship helps him moving forward:
I gotta believe, and I think I said it to him one day at practice, we were in a scrimmage situation, he got mad when he missed a shot, and I said to him, ‘Kris, you hit the biggest shot in the history of college basketball. You can’t ever get mad when you miss a shot. You’ve got to have the elite confidence, whether I miss that shot or not, I’ve already hit the biggest shot under the most pressure, so I know I’m going to make the next shot.’ He’s got to have, and that’s one of the things we talked about the ring can’t be what we take from the National Championship Game, what we’ve got to take from the National Championship Game is all the experiences that can help us in life going forward, and that’s one of the experiences. You make that shot, and if you shoot 1-for-10 in a game, you have to believe ‘I’m making the next shot.’ There can’t be any more pressure, and I want him to take that as a player the rest of his life. I want him to live that way, too. I want him to live like, whatever happens to me, under pressure, if I keep a positive attitude, I can be successful.
Isn’t it better to have him still hungry after a moment like that instead of being overconfident?
I think that so far, and we don’t know what we’re up against going forward because Villanova’s won it, but we all weren’t there, we don’t know what we’re going to experience going forward. he has handled this really well. In practice, he’s humble, he’s trying to get better, he works on his weight, comes in extra and does cardio, he changes his diet. He has completely remained humble, in no way has he been overconfident. I think he’s used that shot to have a great perspective on making and missing shots.
On turning the page after the championship celebrations:
One of the things that the Final Four experience proved to help us with was understanding how life changes after that. It’s completely different when you win it, but we did start preparing the guys right away. Before we went to the parade, we started talking to them about, ‘hey guys, how we handle this is just as important as how we handled the run and how we handle this is going to affect us next year,’ so we were always talking about it. To your question about turning the page, I don’t feel like, when we’re on the court, we’ve turned the page. I don’t think our fans have turned the page. We’re still talking about it right now, we’re not talking about our league next season yet. I get it, so I know we have to deal with it so I don’t think the page has turned yet, but for us on the court it is, so that’s the challenge.
Villanova has become a program where players stay three or four years and there’s not a lot of the ‘one-and-done’ philosophy here. Wright said of that:
I think that’s something that actually is becoming a negative for us in recruiting, and I hope I can dispel that. What we did in ’12 was, we said, ‘we want to make sure that we know what our recruits’ aspirations are coming in.’ We didn’t go a good job of really understanding what the kids were looking to do. We just thought, ‘Okay, they’re coming to Villanova, they want to get their degree, and they want to be pros.’ We didn’t realize we were bringing in some kids that didn’t care if they were at Villanova, they just wanted to get in and get out. That was our fault. We’ll still take ‘one-and-done’ guys. We’ll take two-and-done guys, but we have to make sure they want to be at Villanova, they like being in college. What our concern is that guy that comes in wanting to be ‘one-and-done’ and he’s not ‘one-and-done.’ We don’t want him to be miserable in college. We want him to say, ‘I’m happy being here, maybe I’m going to be two-and-done. It’s backfired on us in recruiting because a lot of guys think ‘they (Villanova) don’t want one-and-done guys.’ I’m going to put it out there, we’ll take one-and-done guys. We just want one-and-done guys that enjoy being in college.
On recruiting Kris Jenkins and Josh Hart:
Eash kid’s unique. I explained Kris’ situation to you. I was shocked in today’s recruiting to say that to a kid, you basically know you’re done, and you say if he accepts that, we’ve got a superstar, and he did, and that’s what we’ve got. The kid’s amazing, he shocked us. And Josh, we were recruiting other guys from his AAU team and we kept seeing this kid is making all the plays. There’s a couple guys on this team that are getting all the hype, but this kid gets every rebound, this kid gets every loose ball, this kid’s getting to the foul line. We just liked him, we just said, ‘he’s our kind of guy, you know.’ Some times we’re pretty lucky, you know, I think we got lucky with both of them. Sometimes, you get a guy who’s really hyped and you get unlucky. We’re in the position we’re in right now because we got lucky with these two.
On NBA Draft rules and if they need tweaking:
I think the rules, I think we’re going in a very good direction. I think that was a great step allowing underclassmen to go to the (NBA) Combine. I think one little tweak would be to allow the guys to have representation because a lot of these guys, while they’re going through the process of trying to figure out, they’re trying to get the best information to make their decision, and when agents are competing for your services at the same time, they’re tainting the information so it’s hard for the player to make the right decision because different agents are giving them different information. If you have one agent, one coach giving them information, it would make it easier to make a decision. I think that’s what Josh was talking about. He didn’t have an agent, so we had all kinds of people hitting him with stuff and he had to really sit back and rely on us and his parents. He handled it really well.
Josh Hart’s season ended later than other players since you were in the National Championship game. Does the fact that his season ended a few weeks after others that were going for the NBA Draft hinder the process?
I think the guys that are playing in the Final Four, especially the Championship Game, they don’t need time to work out, they need time to rest. I think he (Hart) didn’t get a chance to rest, Kris Jenkins didn’t get a chance to rest, and they had to start that process immediately. I think Kris realized right away, I think he was just beat down, he said ‘I’m not going to be able to put my best effort forth.’ Josh, I think, was fatigued going through the process. We gave him a lot of time after that, but I don’t think it’s a reason to change the process. I think if you played in the Final Four, you’ve probably shown what you can do. Those four teams, I don’t think those guys really need to go (to the NBA Combine.) The NBA guys have made their decision on that. Everybody else gets that whole week at least off, and even a little after that, maybe a couple of days off. You have to have some timelines. I think the way the timeline is now is good.