In the midst of one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the Phoenix Suns may looking toward the Wright stuff to make a long awaited return to the playoffs.
Three days after Wright won his first national title, guiding the Villanova Wildcats to a thrilling 77-74 victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels on Monday night, it’s believed that the Suns will be going after Wright, who has been at the helm of the Wildcats since the 2001-02 season.
Pursuing Wright makes sense for Phoenix. The Suns currently sit at 20-58, their worst mark since their inaugural season in 1968-69. Since a 7-5 start, the Suns have gone 13-53. They fired third year head coach Jeff Hornacek this winter, while former assistant Earl Watson has held down the fort since his ousting. Phoenix had won 87 games over the past two seasons under Hornacek. With their current mark, they are guaranteed to have either the third or fourth worst record in basketball this year, currently one game worse than the Brooklyn Nets. Both teams have four games left to play.
Despite their troubles this season, the Suns do have some talented players on their roster, particularly in their guards, a position that has flourished under Wright at Villanova. Veteran Eric Bledsoe was expected to take a bigger role in the offense this season, but a torn meniscus, suffered in December, has kept him out for the majority of the year. Prior to his injury, Bledsoe had been averaging a career high 20.4 PPG. Rookie Devin Booker, selected 13th overall out of Kentucky this past summer, has shown flashes of brilliance while trying to pick up the offensive load. Yet another Kentucky grad, Brandon Knight, currently leads all active players with 19.6 PPG.
Wright, who has also coached at Hofstra from 1994-01, leading the Pride to their first ever NCAA Tournament appearance in 23 years after the 1999-00 season, had been revitalizing the Villanova program even before the Cats’ run to glory this season. Villanova has been a postseason team in all but one of Wright’s years with the team. Four of Wright’s former players, including 2016 NBA All-Star Kyle Lowry, are still active in the NBA today. Combined, Wright has amassed 476 wins over 21 seasons.
There are cases to be made for both sides. On the one hand, the allure of the NBA may a lot for Wright, especially to restore a once proud franchise like the Suns back to former glory. Also, playing with a trio of young guards could give him the perfect cornerstone to work with, not to mention the very high draft pick the Suns will possess this offseason, potentially the #1 pick if the ping-pong balls fall in their favor.
On the other hand, Wright has become a staple of the Villanova community. He grew up in the area, is married to a former Wildcat cheerleader, and served as an assistant under Rollie Massimino from 1987-92. He also potentially has several of his top Cats back for next season, including National Championship hero Kris Jenkins. Leaving the Philadelphia area would be tough, especially with most of your winning talent returning (though I guess that would the Sixers a more attractive option if that spot ever opened up?)
Of course, we’re very early into this process, so stay tuned for more updates on this rumor.
Geoff Magliocchetti is on Twitter @GeoffMags5490