villanova

Why USA Basketball should replace Gregg Popovich with Jay Wright

Why USA Basketball should replace Gregg Popovich with Jay Wright

It’s time for Jay Wright to get his chance to serve as the head coach of NBA players.

Deep breaths, Nova Nation. I’m not talking about Wright getting a job with an NBA franchise. Rather, USA Basketball should make the bold step of naming Wright as the head coach of the national team prior to the 2020 Summer Olympics.

That’s because for the first time since 2006, USA Basketball’s gold medal chances in a major tournament went bust. Or more appropriately, they went Pop — as in Gregg Popovich.

In his first run of games as national team head coach, Popovich lost twice as many games in a month as Mike Krzyzewski did in a decade at the helm of USA Basketball. The Pop/NBA apologists will be quick to point out Coach K had more talent at his disposal than Popovich did for this World Cup.

That’s true. But it points to why a college coach should always lead the national team. The No. 1 job (and probably No. 2 and No. 3) for the national team coach is to convince the best players to play. You know who has experience at convincing good players to play for them? High-level college coaches. It’s hard to imagine a scenario where Popovich would be interested in sending the texts and making the phone calls necessary to convince top NBA players that were on the fence to participate. But that is second nature to Jay Wright.

Additionally, Wright is unencumbered of the NBA rivalries that can make it a challenge to build the type of relationships necessary to ensure enough frontline stars are willing to give their offseasons to USA Basketball.
 
Another reason why a college coach, specifically Wright, should lead the national team is the nature of the task. Beyond the one-and-done nature of international tournament play, the expectation is for USA Basketball to win every game. When you run a big-time college program, that is a familiar pressure. Any time a Duke or Villanova loses, it’s newsworthy. On the road, it likely means a court storm. When an NBA coach loses a game on the road, he gets on a charter flight and coaches again the next night.

You can argue that Popovich understands that expectation. And I’m sure he thinks he did. But I’d rather roll the dice with someone that lives that pressure every night of their season and plays in a one-and-done setting every March. And no coach has been better in the NCAA Tournament in recent years than Wright. Look at those two trophies on Villanova’s campus for proof of that.

Lastly, a college coach has more time at their disposal to devote towards the USA Basketball program. An NBA season can run from late September to early June. A college campaign goes from mid-October until the first Monday in April. That’s extra time for Wright, relative to an NBA coach, to dedicate to preparation, scouting and recruiting.

Wright — for his part —has been a constant for USA Basketball. He’s serving as an assistant for Popovich currently. He’s presumed by many to be next in line for the role after Popovich coaches the Olympic team next summer.

Maybe USA Basketball can afford to wait until 2021 to hand the reins to Wright. Maybe more All-Stars will agree to take part in a showcase event like the Olympics. Maybe this was just a one-game fluke.

But USA Basketball’s expectations leave no room for doubt.

Wright’s the best man for the job right now.

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

2019 NBA draft profile: Why Sixers might want to keep Eric Paschall in town

usa_eric_paschall_villanova.jpg
USA Today Images

2019 NBA draft profile: Why Sixers might want to keep Eric Paschall in town

Eric Paschall was an integral part of Villanova’s unprecedented success over the last four years. After transferring from Fordham, he redshirted during the Wildcats’ 2016 national championship season. His role gradually expanded within the Villanova program over the next three years. That culminated this past season with a First Team All-Big East selection.

Paschall averaged 16.5 points and 6.1 rebounds as a senior, establishing himself as a fringe first-round NBA Draft prospect. He’s a winning player — he enters the NBA with a pair of national championship rings and a 94-18 record in his three seasons on the court at Villanova.

He was overshadowed at times during his college career by the likes of Jalen Brunson, Josh Hart, Mikal Bridges and Donte DiVincenzo. But Paschall has proven he is capable of shining when the lights are brightest. His 24 points on 10 of 11 shooting against Kansas in the 2018 Final Four is one of the greatest single game performances in Villanova history. 

  • Position: Forward
  • Height: 6-8
  • Weight: 255
  • School: Villanova

Strengths 

Versatility, athleticism and intangibles come to mind. Paschall will be able to play and defend multiple positions in the NBA. His perimeter shooting and passing ability should enable him to be utilized as a center in a small ball lineup, similar to how the Warriors use Draymond Green. 

Paschall’s strength and athleticism will serve him well on the defensive end of the floor. He has a sturdy frame and won’t be pushed around by too many NBA forwards. Paschall is also a tremendous finisher around the basket; he takes a backseat to no one when it comes to leaping ability. 

His mindset and work ethic may be his two greatest assets. Paschall is cut from the same cloth as former Villanova teammates Ryan Arcidiacono, Hart and Brunson, guys who were either drafted late in the first round, early in the second round or in Arcidiacono’s case, weren’t drafted at all. They all worked themselves into valuable NBA contributors. It’s a safe bet that Paschall will do the same. 

Weaknesses 

Paschall needs to prove that he can be a consistent perimeter shooter at the NBA level. He was a streaky shooter in college, prone to cold stretches. His ballhandling remains a work in progress. Paschall handled the ball quite a bit in college but still has plenty of room for improvement in that area of his game.

Paschall’s age could work against him. He’ll be 23 in November. NBA evaluators tend to prefer younger prospects who they believe have greater “upside.”  

His advanced age for a prospect shouldn’t be seen as a hinderance or an indication of limited potential. Paschall is a mature and experienced player who will be ready to contribute immediately for whichever team drafts him.

Fit

Paschall would be a great addition to the 76ers’ roster. He was impressive during a workout for the team earlier this month. Paschall would be a solid complementary piece and would have no trouble accepting and playing a supporting role.

Whether the Sixers consider Paschall a possibility with the 24th pick remains to be seen. But he would be a terrific option if he’s still available in the second round. 

Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

More on the Sixers

UCLA reportedly offered Jay Wright ridiculous amount he turned down

usa-jay-wright-smile.jpg
USA Today Images

UCLA reportedly offered Jay Wright ridiculous amount he turned down

Because of his success at Villanova, Jay Wright is always a hot name when a high-profile coaching job becomes available. But Wright really does seem happy at Villanova. 

It looks like Wright subscribes to the idea that money can’t buy happiness. 

The Los Angeles Times published a story today about UCLA’s long and winding search for a new head coach. Before they eventually landed on Mick Cronin, they went after some big names in the coaching world, including John Calipari and Wright. 

While Calipari showed some real interest in the gig, it doesn’t seem like Wright gave it a second thought, not even after UCLA offered to double his salary, according to the LA Times

Read by the LA Times, here’s part of what UCLA’s senior associate AD Josh Rebholz said in a text message to donors after the school failed to hire Calipari: 

We would have loved for Jay Wright to walk out on the floor, but even when we offered to double his salary, he still wasn’t coming. Nothing we can do about that. But I am proud of our effort. We didn’t assume anything, took our shots and I believe will end up with a solid coach who will embrace UCLA and build a program we all can be proud of and root for.

If that’s true, that UCLA offered to double his salary, Wright turned down a ton of money. According to USA Today, Wright makes $3,878,768 per season, so doubling that would give him an annual salary of over $7.75 million. That would be the second-highest salary in college basketball behind Calipari and ahead of Mike Krzyzewski. 

It seems like Wright really does love it here.