Everyone’s gotten swept up in Villanova mania this week, even the president of the United States. It’s not really a surprise, then, that Philadelphia Union head coach Jim Curtin said that he “jumped on the bandwagon” as the Wildcats stormed to the national title, texting Villanova coach Jay Wright after the incredible win in Monday’s title game.
But, in reality, Curtin’s been on the bandwagon a long time. A 2001 graduate of Villanova and a former high school basketball player at Bishop McDevitt, Curtin has been following ’Nova hoops for a while. And although Wright got to Villanova just as he was leaving, Curtin's developed a little bit of a relationship with the Wildcats head coach, who Curtin said texted him last season during the Union’s run to the US Open Cup final.
And Curtin will continue to look to Wright as a model of success, especially after watching his ridiculously cool reaction to Kris Jenkins’ championship-winning buzzer beater.
“As coaches in a fraternity, if you will, you always look at how people handle press conferences, how they handle the big moments, how they handle when it’s hard, and you kind of study it,” Curtin said. “He is pretty cool under fire, for sure, and his reaction was a special one. He’s respectful, also, of the North Carolina kids, you can tell. He carries himself like a true professional.”
Curtin watched Monday’s title game with his brother Jeff Curtin (a former pro soccer player and hoops junkie) at a couple of sports bars in Philly, including Founding Fathers. He admitted to getting nervous when UNC wiped away Villanova’s late 10-point lead (“Philly mentality, you know”) but then cheered with everyone else when the winning shot went down.
Curtin doesn’t think he can get to the parade Friday (he’s got a big game that night vs. Kaka and Orlando City to prepare for) but is excited to see the city rally around a champion, even one that’s outside Philly’s traditional big four teams.
Perhaps the Union can one day win a title of their own and elicit a similar reaction.
“Championships are forever and they get that one, and they’ll have it forever,” Curtin said. “So a special moment. … And yeah, Philadelphia fans love a winner, that’s for sure. And that’s something we are striving to get to with the Philadelphia Union.”