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March 14, 2018

Jay Wright

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

COACH WRIGHT: Happy to be here in Pittsburgh. Great town, got a lot of good Villanova people here. Very impressed with the Radford team we're playing. Great game last night. They got great balance, great depth, and just excited to get started.

Q. Jay, earlier you were asked about the Pitt position. You have been in that position where your name is in every circle. At some point you obviously made a decision you're going to be where you are for now. What goes into that decision making and how do you deal being caught up in that maelstrom when it comes?
COACH WRIGHT: It is very difficult. I'm so far out of it, I didn't even know Danny was being mentioned for that one, too. But when you say it, I feel for him, because you have such deep loyalty to the team you're with at this point, the players you're with. You don't want anything to distract them, and you're talking to them all the time about not being distracted, and then you're the one causing the distraction.

It's a really difficult time for a coach. Again, no pity necessary. You know, we all know how to handle it, but it bothers you mostly with your team, you know? You can't handle everything else, but you just try to do everything you can to keep your focus on your team and keep your team focused on what they're doing and not let it be a distraction.

Q. How did you come to the decision --
COACH WRIGHT: No, mine's easy. I think I have the best job in college basketball. So I always felt that way, so it really was easy for me. Sometimes you don't want to just be rude and say right away, no, I don't like that job, when it's a great job, a great school. And you want to be respectful, but you know that you're not going to do it. You know, you just don't want to -- you don't want to make that another story. You try not to address it. You don't want to make you saying no a story.

Q. Jay, on the same level, I mean it -- do you find this distraction when you have guys like Mikal and Jalen who are being touted as lottery picks and probably aren't going to come back next year, trying to keep those outside forces at bay as well?
COACH WRIGHT: Yes. It definitely can be and it has sometimes with some of our guys. Because the closer you get towards the end of the year, if they don't have an agent, a lot of those guys around -- you know, if they know the season is going to end quickly, they might start thinking that way. It's a challenge. That is a challenge for those players.

We have been so lucky with Jalen and Mikal. They are so grounded, they got such great families around them, they are really intelligent. It just has not been an issue at all with them. As a matter of fact, I passed Mikal coming out of here and he said they asked me about the lottery. There's five guys here in the lottery. He said I don't even know who they are.

He doesn't even think about that stuff. It's rare that a guy really thinks that way, but he really does think that way. I think it's the beauty of him. I think that's why he's such a good player.

Q. Jay, you have four freshman who have never had the NCAA experience before. What are you telling them, and how are you keeping them from getting a little too wound up as tomorrow night approaches?
COACH WRIGHT: You know. That's kind of new for us, as you know. Just having four freshmen that you're relying on, you know? I kind of sense a little bit even in practice today, Collin Gillespie wasn't being his normal self which is rare, nothing bad. I just thought little distracted -- I think, you know, I tell the older guy -- they're meeting with the media now -- I tell the older guy, just keep an eye on them, keep talking to them.

But I think the only remedy is they've got to get in a game. Once you get in an NCAA game, you get in there, it is really different than any other experience. We could do a whole story on all the differences, but you get in there, you feel it. And then I think when you come out of the game and you go back in the second time, you're good. But you've got to get in there and feel it.

Q. You said a little bit in the opening statement and how helpful is it and nice to know that you're in the same state and going to have a large portion of your fan base going to attend the opening round.
COACH WRIGHT: I hope this is a -- I mean this as a compliment. I feel this is like an old Big East town, and I feel a lot of Big East love when we come here, people say that to us. I know they love the ACC, but we were in the Big East for a long time. We had some incredible battles in this town against Pitt, and probably lost almost all of them. I don't think we ever won at Pitt when I was at Villanova.

I feel a great connection to the people here, and we have a lot of fans here, a lot of Villanova alums, and our people, Philadelphia people come out here to see the spirits. They come out here to see the Steelers. It's just a good connection in the State of Pennsylvania. It's a great spot for us.

Q. You mentioned Pitt -- Pittsburgh as a great basketball town.

Q. I want to get your thoughts, what you've seen happen to the University of Pittsburgh basketball program with Jamie Dixon leaving, Kevin Stallings getting fired after two years. What's your reaction around the basketball coaching fraternity and whether you think that's a desirable job, given how much things have changed since they left the Big East?
COACH WRIGHT: There's no doubt everybody in college basketball thinks this is a great job, and it is a great basketball town. And I think Keith at Duquesne is going to do an amazing job by the way. He's a really good coach. That's a good job.

I just think it's the simple process of, you know, a coach leaving, a lot of the players leaving when he leaves, a new coach coming in, bringing in new players. It takes time. If you look at programs in college football and basketball, the programs that have continuity over a long period of time, that's what -- that's what Ben Howland and Jamie did here for a long -- I really think -- I think that would have eventually happened, because this is a good basketball town and a good program.

It would have eventually happened, but for whatever reason, it's none of my business, there was a change. And it's going to take a little time again, but once you get some continuity here again, you've got everything in place here to have a great program.

Q. You know, Jay, Phil's going to play his first NCAA Tournament game since the National Championship game. He's had a rough couple of years. How has he grown from that experience? Is he a better person for what he's been through?
COACH WRIGHT: He has been through a lot. And I actually think it's been tough on his parents. He's got great parents who really support him and support us. And I can see -- I could tell the night he broke his hand, his mom was crushed, more for him, like, you know, now this. Like, he can't get through a year.

But it does not affect him. He's incredible, man. He's got the best attitude. I still think he's not 100 percent yet, but he's getting closer. He had a great practice today. As a matter of fact, he had our best practice. You know we pick our best practice -- he was the best player in practice today. He's so mature. He's been through so much. He's very intelligent. I think he's in a great place. I think he's going have a great tournament.

Q. Coach, what -- when asked about Jalen Brunson now being a finalist for the Naismith, what are some of the things he brings to the table but some things you look to for an upperclassman like that leadership-wise. What are some things he brings?
COACH WRIGHT: On the court he's as complete a player as there can be, very intelligent. Posts up, shoots threes, drives, passes, does everything. Defend, rebounds. And his work ethic is maturity every day. We joked he's the most mature person in the program including all of the coaches and me. And he is. He probably is. He's such a great example of all of the young players of how to handle your academics, how to handle taking care of your body, eat properly, rest properly, work out extra.

He had a plan to graduate in three years and he's doing it. So, everything he sets to do, he works hard to accomplish. It's a great -- it's just a great example for all of us, really. And he's humble about it. He leads our team in taking charges. I think he's handled all of this publicity with Player of the Year extremely well, and I just -- we just feel really lucky that we've had him in our program over his last three years.

Hoops is in the house. He just made a grand entrance.

Q. I think we've asked this one-and-done question in different ways. Only two teams that have relied on one-and-dones to win the NCAA tournament, Duke in 2015, and Kentucky in 2012. Why do you think it is that teams that are older and more experienced like yours are better-suited to March than those kind of teams?
COACH WRIGHT: I think the reason the Dukes and Kentuckys have won it, and I really mean this, I don't think anyone understands how difficult it is to coach freshmen in high-level games. I don't care how good they are. I don't care if it's LeBron. You just haven't been expected to have the kind of detail needed to play. And I think John and Coach K. do the best job of that, right? So that's rare in itself.

And then there are only so many of those guys that are one-and-done that are capable of winning National Championships. You can be one-and-done and be capable of having a potential great pro career, but you might not be good enough at that time to win a National Championship. Those guys have some of those guys. Duke might have some of those guys now and Kentucky maybe, too.

And then the rest of it is, when those guys are playing against older experienced guys -- you know, we're playing against a kid, Phillips, who is a senior at Radford and I'm showing Omari is a freshman. I'm showing him the attention to detail that Phillips has as a senior that Omari doesn't have yet. It's the same with one-and-done guys. They are seniors and might be first-round picks, but they are greater basketball players and that's why those teams win.

Q. Hey, Jay, wanted to follow up on Jalen. He's the first guy since Okafor to be Player of the Year and Impact Lead Scholar in the Big East. What does that mean to you and does he talk about academics much?
COACH WRIGHT: He does. I am honestly more proud that we have the scholar-athlete of the year in the Big East and he's that good of a player. Sometimes you get the scholar-athlete of the year, he's a great scholar but he might not be that good of a player. Which is cool. I would like to have that guy, too. I don't think we've had him. Matter of fact, I think that's our first scholar-athlete, but I'm way far more proud of that, because it's obvious what a great player he is.

The fact he came in and got a three -- he's getting his degree in communications in three years. I know how hard that program is. I've never met anyone at Villanova that graduated in three years in any program. I'm sure they've done it, I just haven't met them. It's so impressive. It's what college athletics is all about. Doesn't mean everyone has to be that. God knows probably none of us are that guy, right?

But the fact that there are those guys really should be celebrated. That's what I love about him as Player of the Year. That he is good enough to be Player of the Year, but he's also a three-year college graduate and that was his plan. And he does talk about academics, you know. He does talk about what he's going to do after he finishes playing basketball, and he talks about his classes, and he is -- as I said, he's the most mature guy in our program. He really is.

Q. Jay?

Q. As your program has evolved, can you see the expectations increasing among your fan base and how hard is that to maintain a given level?
COACH WRIGHT: Yeah. I can definitely see it. You know, I see when people talk about being out here Thursday and Saturday, you know, and we're talking about a -- we're talking about Thursday. We've got to get by Thursday. So, it's something that I know this is around our players also. And we have to talk to them about that, you know? We even talked about the fact some kid could yell at you on campus, hey, see you in San Antonio, and you say, hey, we'll see you in San Antonio. You put that on Twitter, that's like someone's guaranteeing.

All of that is going on around them and it's something that we have to be cognizant of. There's a lot of things that come with those expectations. Then the disappointment comes when you don't make it, too. It can be a miserable offseason, but I'll still take that any time over the opposite.

Q. What's the trick to everything a powerhouse program like yours and doing it with three, four-year players that you don't see in these other number 1 seeds through the years. How can you find the player who can stay here this long and still be a lottery pick or first-round draft pick?
COACH WRIGHT: We don't know. It might be luck because we don't know how long we'll keep this going. Right in there's some luck in there. But we just -- I don't know. You know, I don't know. I just know what we do, we just -- we try to find great players, right, that want to be in college, so that they really want to be this college. So I want to go there. I want to learn. I want to learn how to be a better student. I want to learn how to be a better man, I want to learn how to be a better player and I want to be an NBA player.

As I'm learning that, if it takes me two years, I'm happy. If it takes me four, I'm happy. That's what we try to do. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. It's been pretty good for the last three years. And we want to keep doing that. That's what we call our culture. We're more interested in maintaining our culture than we are getting guys to the NBA or winning National Championships. We feel like that fits our University and it will serve every player the best in the end.

Q. Jay, regarding Radford, they seem to really knuckle down on the defensive end and try to control tempo. What are the challenges presented by a team like that?
COACH WRIGHT: You know what, Joe, I watched them a couple years ago, following my man Pat Chambers, I watched them go into Penn State and beat them. From different players, some of the same, but the team, the concepts, Mike does a great job with that team in that they have a great understanding of how to win games, not just how to play. They make great decisions early in the clock, you know, which they'll come at you aggressively.

Then they run their offense and they are not afraid to get late in the clock because they know who to go to. That actually helps their defense, because they'll go some long possessions, much like the University of Virginia. And then on the defensive end, they're really well-schooled. You saw last night, very good man-to-man team, but when they go zone, that's not a team that's just throwing a zone in there. They match up out of that zone extremely well, and they are very good at it.

So they have good tempo control offensively, great man-to-man principles, great zone principles, and they rebound well out of both of those. That's a very good team.

Q. We've asked you this a hundred times.
COACH WRIGHT: It's nice to see the same old people. You don't have to say the name, ask the same questions. That's a good thing. That means we're in a good spot.

Q. Without saying specific names, how many times have you told a prospect that you thought might have been a one-and-done or you thought might want to be a one-and-done that Villanova was not the right culture for them. Like more than once or twice?
COACH WRIGHT: No. What normally happens, I will tell certain really good students, I would say, if your parents can afford it, you should go to the Ivy League, but if they can't, you should go to Villanova. That, I'll say.

But I never tell those guys, you shouldn't come here. I tell them this is what this is. This is what we do. And you have to want to enjoy being -- you have to want to enjoy being in college. If you're here, two, three years and just be happy, you'll love this place. But if you don't, you probably won't like it, and then they figure that out. They usually tell us no.

I like those -- all of those one-and-done guys that we don't get, I love those guys. I would love them to come to Villanova. I just lay it out for what it is, and they usually decide they don't want to come. They're all good guys and a lot of them are really good students.

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