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Wright cites lost ‘edge’ in surprise Villanova retirement

Michigan v Villanova

SAN ANTONIO, TX - APRIL 02: Head coach Jay Wright of the Villanova Wildcats cuts down the net after defeating the Michigan Wolverines during the 2018 NCAA Men’s Final Four National Championship game at the Alamodome on April 2, 2018 in San Antonio, Texas. Villanova defeated Michigan 79-62. (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

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VILLANOVA, Pa. - Typically unflappable in the spotlight, Jay Wright choked back tears several times as he discussed his sudden retirement at Villanova, saying he no longer had “the edge” he needed to continue coaching at a championship level.

The 60-year-old Wright shocked college basketball this week with his retirement from the Big East program he led to two national championships and four Final Fours in a Hall of Fame career. His last game was a loss this season in the Final Four.

He went 520-197 in 21 seasons at the school and turned the program over to his former assistant coach, Kyle Neptune.

Wright said Friday he contemplated retirement here and there over the last several seasons but knew down the stretch of this this past one it was definitively his last. Wright said he considered himself officially retired from all levels of coaching.

“I started to feel like I didn’t have the edge that I’ve always had,” Wright said. “The edge always came natural to me. So I started evaluating. I would never have to think about anything. I started to think like, I have to get myself fired up here. Let’s go. ... We couldn’t ask the players, you’ve got to give 100% and I’m giving 70%. I just knew it was the right time.”

Wright said he told his inner circle at Villanova at the end of the regular season he was retiring.

Wright will remain at Villanova and stay involved in fundraising, advising, education and more. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 2021.

Wright needed three years to build a foundation before Villanova broke through with a trip to the 2005 Sweet 16. An Elite Eight appearance followed the next year and the Wildcats reached the Final Four in 2009.

Villanova won its first national title under Wright in 2016 on Kris Jenkins’ buzzer-beater and rolled over the NCAA Tournament field in 2018, winning every game by double digits on its way to the national title.

He was selected AP coach of the decade in 2020.

“I’ve always felt like it’s a run. And when you’re on top of it and you’re grinding and if you’ve got the edge in your head, you do it,” he said.

Wright felt like that run had finally reached the finish line.