Most people who packed into Dilworth Park on Thursday probably didn’t expect Jay Wright to give Penn coach Steve Donahue a shoutout. Or talk about the Palestra in the 1960s. Or pump up Phil Booth’s Philadelphia roots so much that he said they have to bring him a soft pretzel after every game.
Whether or not in response to the largely silly debate over whether Villanova is a “Philadelphia team,” the Wildcats coach made his opinion on the subject clear during the team’s national championship parade.
“We are so proud to represent the Big 5, the Big East, and most importantly, the great city of Philadelphia and Philadelphia basketball, which has the greatest tradition in the country,” Wright boomed to the crowd in front of City Hall. “Everywhere we go, when we play in the national tournament, all the Big 5 schools, we root for each other. I was afraid to say this during the tournament but Penn coach Steve Donahue helped us with the scout of Kansas. I didn’t want to say it when we were in the tournament but there’s a tight bond in the Big 5 and we all stick together.”
Now maybe that’s true for the coaches and even some players but it’s doubtful too many Temple and St. Joe’s fans were rooting for Villanova. And yes, the fact remains that Villanova University is located in the Philly suburbs.
But if you do want to wade into the debate, you can also look at the fact that Villanova recruits and develops many local kids, has fans and alums from all around the city, has a storied tradition playing Big 5 schools at the Palestra, and played all of its home games this year at the Wells Fargo Center.
“This is truly a Philly team,” Wright said, before encouraging everyone to throw streamers like they did starting in the 1960s at the Palestra after the first basket of every game.
“We thank everyone at the Wells Fargo Center, we thank the entire city of Philadelphia for coming out and making it a great home for us this year — and home of the national champions.”
Oh and you can also look at where the parade was held — a point 2016 national championship hero Kris Jenkins has been trying to (somewhat saltily) make.
Anyway, walking the parade route on Market Street this year, it was clear there were many people stopping out of their offices to watch and many more who hopped on the train from the suburbs to get there. (After the parade, I overheard a couple of Villanova students yelling, “Where’s Shake Shack?” and “This city is so dirty.”) The crowd seemed a little lighter than the one two years ago (perhaps because of the cold or Phillies opening day) but definitely filled up closer to City Hall. There were plenty of “E-A-G-L-E-S” and “Trust the Process” chants and a crazy amount of people hawking Villanova T-shirts (the price dropped from $10 to $5 when the rally ended).
A few other highlights for those who didn’t go or watch:
• The biggest applause may have been when team chaplain, Father Rob Hagan, was announced. Sister Jean residual effect?
• “I thought you guys would get tired of parades,” Wright said to the #CityofChampions. (Not yet.)
• Mikal Bridges kept his speech short, to which Wright quipped; “He only weighs 185 pounds, he’s freezing.”
• There were “One More Year” chants directed at Bridges. Wright mostly shot it down by saying he’s about to get his degree anyway.
• National player of the year Jalen Brunson introduced title game star Donte DiVincenzo as the “red-headed Italian” before leading a “Di-Vin-Cen-Zo” chant.
• There was a “One Shining Moment” video with only Villanova highlights, which was pretty cool.
• There didn’t seem to be too many signs out there but I did spot at least one interesting one:
It’s always good to keep your parade signs punchy and concise. pic.twitter.com/O0ap3VpBFr— Dave Zeitlin (@DaveZeitlin) April 5, 2018
Only in Philly?