Boston College announced this morning the hiring of Jay Wright as Head Men's Basketball Coach. Wright, Villanova's head coach since 2001, will be introduced at a 2 PM (EST) press conference at BC's Yawkey Athletics Center.
Wright and BC Athletics Director Brad Bates released a joint statement this morning confirming reports of the move.
"I'm thrilled to welcome Jay Wright to the Heights," Bates said. "Jay's record at Villanova speaks for itself. A tireless recruiter responsible for developing several underwhelming NBA players, he has the deep experience of NCAA Tournament disappointment that Boston College basketball has missed since Al Skinner helmed the program. Like Al did, I'm sure Jay will soon spoil Eagles fans with consistent March Madness appearances, and anger them with mesmerizing, early exits from the dance."
"This moment is bittersweet as I never envisioned leaving Villanova for another Catholic university in a provincial, pro sports-focused town that masquerades as a big city," said Wright. "That said, my family and I are ecstatic at the opportunity before us at Boston College. BC is a special place with a community eager for a competitive basketball team. I relish the challenge of rebuilding this program - I mean, YIKES - and competing and succeeding in the ACC. Also, money."
Wright's contract is reportedly worth nearly $18 million over six years, according to Mark Blaudschun of ajerseyguy.com, who first reported the agreement. The deal is, by far, the most lucrative for a head coach of any sport in BC's history. Reached for comment, Wright said, "Brad and I didn't meet face-to-face. He didn't even call me. I just received an e-mail to my Hotmail account saying the job was mine. My initial reaction was incredulous, like, 'That's it? You don't have one question for me?' But then a messenger showed up at my doorstep with a contract, pen, and bag of, like, $1 million in pure gold. I got the message: Take it or leave it."
That process - or lackthereof - is a departure from BC's typical hiring practices. Based on a Draconian model of business management, BC typically requires that a coaching candidate meet with the Athletic Director, school President Fr. William Leahy, S.J., and select trustees to ensure "consensus," a controversial business concept that was en vogue in the 1990's but today is considered passe.
Blaudschun also reported that the two parties were brought together by Pope Francis, whose Catholic employment recruiting services Bates enlisted to guide the search. It would appear the Pontiff felt that a Jesuit institution like BC returning to basketball relevance is more important to the Church's interests than an Augustinian school like Villanova remaining competitive. "Ever to excel," Pope Francis, the first Jesuit to hold that title, was quoted as saying during mass yesterday.
Though Wright was obviously on a list compiled by the Pontiff and Bates, he may or may not have been on what's being called "the list," which was the first set of coaching candidates BC considered. Blaudschun reported that set included one name - Harvard's Tommy Amaker. According to Blaudschun, BC did indeed make Amaker a "Godfather offer," but Amaker bristled at BC's insistence that he "take it or leave it," preferring instead an interview process to ensure he had chemistry with the administration and that their visions for the program aligned. Once Amaker removed his name from consideration, BC moved on to Wright. Shaka Smart, to the disappointment of one longtime passionate BC supporter, was only the third potential play.
Even if Wright wasn't BC's first choice, the early returns on the hiring are promising. BC also announced that Eastern Clothing Co. of Watertown, a longtime BC corporate partner who cut ties with the program upon the dismissal of Skinner, will be Jay Wright's official clothier.
An Eastern Clothing spokesman said, "We're beyond thrilled to announce our new partnership with BC and Jay Wright. All due respect to Steve Donahue, he wore only two ties during his tenure at BC. Jay Wright is a multiple GQ Fashionable Four winner who is going to look fantastic in our suits. Speaking of, be sure to stop by this weekend for a buy one, get two free sale."
Unilever, the parent company of Dove Men +Care, also praised the Wright-BC marriage, with a spokesman saying, "After a decade and a half at Villanova, we fully support Jay's decision to move on to Boston College. Not only is the school getting a great coach, but their male students are getting a great role model for skin care. Jay understands the importance of moisturizing daily, and we look forward to spreading that message together to BC students."
On the court, Wright faces an uphill battle to turn around a program coming off the worst season in school history at 8-24. Though contrary to Blaudschun's report Wright did not recruit and develop Ray Allen (but actually Allan Ray), Wright's reputation on the recruiting trail should help BC immediately.
Adding to Wright's challenge is the ACC gauntlet of Duke, UNC, and Wright's former Big East foes, Syracuse, and Pitt. "Jimmy [Boeheim] texted to congratulate me earlier," Wright said, adding, "he said he'd buy me breakfast at Denny's to celebrate, but after that, I'd have to fend for myself. Well, I'm looking forward to it."
BC's fans are, too. For them, to borrow from our friend Blauds, the hope for a long-elusive Final Four trip goes continues.
For more on the situation, check out the coverage on SB Nation's Villanova site, VU Hoops.