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Jay Wright Retires As Villanova Head Coach; Kyle Neptune Named Successor

VILLANOVA, Pa. (CBS) -- The Jay Wright era at Villanova has come to an end. Wright announced on Twitter on Wednesday night he's retiring after 21 seasons as the Wildcats' head coach.

Jay Wright will formally announce his retirement from Villanova during a press conference on Friday. Watch it on CBS3 and streaming on CBS News Philly starting at 10 a.m. Here's how to watch on CBS News Philly.

"After 35 years in coaching, I am proud and excited to hand over the reins to Villanova's next coach. I am excited to remain a part of Villanova and look forward to working with Father Peter, Mark and the rest of the leadership team. Once a Wildcat, always a Wildcat," Wright said in a statement.

Villanova hired Fordham head coach Kyle Neptune as Wright's successor.

It was just a few weeks ago that the Villanova Wildcats were knocking on the doorstep of a third national championship under Wright, which makes Wednesday's retirement announcement all the more shocking.

Wright took over as Villanova's head coach in 2001 and led the Wildcats to two national championships, four Final Four appearances and 16 NCAA Tournament appearances. The 60-year-old was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame last year.

During his 21-year tenure as 'Nova's head coach, Wright won 520 games with a .725 winning percentage. The Wildcats were 30-8 in 2022 and made it to the Final Four as a 2 seed before losing 81-65 to the top-seeded Kansas Jayhawks. Wright also recorded 16 20 win seasons and was named National Coach of the Year in 2006 and 2016.

"Thank you, Coach, for everything you have done for our University, community & the game of basketball," Villanova's men's basketball program wrote on Twitter.

And at 60 years old, you could argue Wright is walking away while he still has something left in the tank.

The news of Wright's retirement sent shockwaves throughout college basketball, including his friend and former Big 5 rival, Phil Martelli, who's now an associate head coach at the University of Michigan. 

"He is the living definition of what a coach is," Martelli, the former St. Joseph's University coach, said. "A coach should coach. A coach should recruit. A coach should represent his school to the highest degree possible. Jay Wright did all those things."

Neptune's coaching career began under Wright in 2008, serving as a video coordinator for the Wildcats. He was also on staff for Villanova's 2009 Final Four appearance before leaving for an assistant coaching job at Niagara for three seasons.

Neptune came back to Villanova in 2013 and served as an assistant on Wright's staff before being named Fordham's head coach in 2021. Fordham finished 16-16 in Neptune's lone season as head coach.

After one season, Neptune returns to Villanova and take over for Wright.

"When looking for a successor, we wanted a candidate who could navigate the changing landscape of collegiate athletics and keep Villanova in a position of strength—now and in the future," Villanova President Rev. Peter Donahue and Director of Athletics Mark Jackson said in a joint statement. "After meeting with several exceptional candidates, we found all those attributes and more in Kyle Neptune. Kyle quickly stood out for his basketball knowledge, recruiting savvy and natural ability to connect with student-athletes and coaches."

Neptune will be introduced as Villanova's head coach on Friday at 10 a.m. in a news conference. Villanova says Wright will also be present.

There's been a lot of speculation about Wright's future. Will he stay retired? Will he try to jump to the NBA?

Only time will tell.

For now, Villanova has named Wright a special assistant to the university's president.

CBS3's Ross DiMattei contributed to this story.

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