For the first time since 2013, the Sixers are searching for a new head coach.
With the team announcing Monday that it has fired Brett Brown, we’re continuing our series analyzing candidates to replace Brown with Villanova's Jay Wright. On Monday, we looked at reported candidate Tyronn Lue.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Wright is “among early candidates” for the Sixers' head coaching vacancy. Wright has been linked to the Sixers before but has always been quick to decline NBA interest while growing his legendary status at Villanova.
Let’s examine the case for and against hiring Wright:
The case for Wright
This is a very easy case to make. The 59-year-old Wright has won two national titles and turned Villanova into an NCAA powerhouse that continues to churn out NBA talent. He has been a popular name among fans for years and is a local product from Bucks County.
Worried about him making the jump to the NBA from college? Do you know where the Celtics got Brad Stevens? Or where the Thunder got Coach of the Year finalist Billy Donovan? It will be an adjustment, but there are a lot of reasons to believe Wright can succeed.
In a recent interview with The Athletic, former Wildcat and Warriors rookie Eric Paschall spoke about why Wright has been so successful at producing NBA talent.
I just had to learn how Coach Wright wanted to play and really learn how to play basketball. Coach Wright kind of kept that aggressiveness because he liked my confidence, but he taught me how to play basketball. That’s why I feel like Coach Wright has a lot of pros now because he taught us how to play basketball the right way and it translates, and he has a great track record. I feel like that’s something huge that Philadelphia basketball has taught me.
As for Josh Richardson’s concerns about “accountability”:
“He pushes you, and you might want to just snap,” Paschall said, “but at the end of the day he’s doing what’s right for you and that’s something that makes him a Hall of Fame coach, just because he wants to see if you’re mentally tough enough to get through it.”
If Elton Brand calls Wright and he picks up, Brand shouldn’t let him off the line until he agrees to become the next head coach of the Philadelphia 76ers.
The case against Wright
I can’t even make a true case against Wright. He’s a wildly successful college coach. We have recent examples of college coaches making the leap to the NBA and having success. He’s from the area, knows it well and will know how to handle the media here. He’s also dapper as hell, for what it’s worth.
The only case to be made is that Wright isn’t interested in an NBA job. He’s gotten interest from teams, including the Sixers, but has remained at Villanova and has been steadfast in his desire to stay. When rumors swirled about potential interest from the Knicks, Wright seemed to get out in front of it quickly.
It’s not to say the idea of being an NBA coach hasn’t crossed his mind.
“The NBA does intrigue me,” Wright told the Athletic back in April of 2018. “That challenge is appealing, but it’s not worth giving up working with these guys. The whole thing is, to take a new challenge you have to give up what you have. I don’t want to give up what I have. Would I like to coach in the NBA? Yes. But I have to give this up in order to do that, and I don’t see that happening.”
The status of next year’s NCAA basketball season also complicates matters. Would the uncertainty surrounding the Wildcats’ 2020-21 season make Wright more or less likely to consider an NBA job?
The thought of how Wright would handle All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons is intriguing. How they’d respond to Wright is just as intriguing to think about.
But will Wright be intrigued enough to leave Villanova, a place where he enjoys legend status, to coach a team that appears to be in complete disarray?