Sports history has a funny way of looking at things.
Take for example Bob Stoops. In his second season at Oklahoma, they won the national title. Then henceforth, his nickname was ‘Big Game Bob’.
18 years later, he is retired without any more national titles, and it only took about 14 years for people to think maybe he wasn’t so ‘Big Game’. However, since he won a title so early in his career, that virtual first impression stuck with him far longer than it logically demanded.
Take another example; James Shields. His nickname is ‘Big Game James’. I am not really sure why this is the case. Maybe he pitched one good game in high school. Anyway, he is now out of the MLB and really never won a big game.
Now let’s go to Jay Wright. When he first started at Villanova in 2001, they were a below average team. After 3 years, they made the NCAA tournament in about 7 years. Surprising the nation, the Wildcats made the round of 16, and even built on that for the next year and made it to the 8. Heck, in 2009 Villanova even made a Final Four and the reputation of Jay Wright increased to the point where his name was being thrown around with guys like ‘Calipari’ and ‘Izzo’.
However, things did not progress as planned.
Check out this resume:
2010: #2 seed, loss in 2nd round
2011: #9 seed, loss in 1st round
2012: missed NCAAs
2013: #9 seed, loss in 1st round
2014: #2 seed, loss in 2nd round
2015: #1 seed, loss in 2nd round
So for 6 straight seasons, Villanova underachieved. People were questioning his small-ball approach, his philosophy of shooting a ton of 3’s, his recruiting style (he didn’t land top-notch 1-and-done guys), his eclectic use of various defenses, even his on-court demeanor. Could his style actually work in the tournament? I mean Villanova won a bunch of regular season games, but their tournament record….eh….not so much.
Then they won the national title in 2016.
Lost in the 2nd round again as a #1 seed.
Now won another national title in 2018.
So apparently Jay Wright is a genius. Will 1-and-done freshmen teams ever win a title again? Why don’t all teams shoot more 3’s? His calm demeanor is definitely the way to go. Jay Wright is the epitome of modern day college coaching.
Now I always liked Jay Wright’s style of play and demeanor. I have always put him up there with the best coaches in the game, despite those lackluster NCAA games in the early 2010’s.
But what do I know? I think Tony Bennett is a fantastic coach as well, despite his lackluster NCAA tournament runs. I mean, does his on-court demeanor, heavy-help defense, and grind-it-out style translate to the tournament?
I don’t know. But I bet if you wait a few more years, Bennett maybe the new genius of college basketball.