JENSEN: Villanova's Jay Wright may be right fit for 76ers, but are they right fit for him?
If the 76ers ownership group has enough spare change lying around that they can put in even an unsuccessful bid to buy the New York Mets, they could also scrounge between the cushions and come up with a Sixers coaching offer that Jay Wright might find very difficult to refuse.
I mean, Al Horford money would get anyone’s attention, right?
Let’s assume, however, that the private equity guys aren’t looking to change the NBA coaching salary structure. Let’s assume any offer to Wright would be a strong one, but not a crazy one.
Let’s also assume that ain’t going to cut it, that Villanova’s coach ain’t going anywhere.
We’ve been here before, just last year, when the Knicks job was open. I actually thought that might be the job that Wright would have a hard time turning down. He’s always liked New York, and New York has always liked him.
Nope, didn’t happen.
The idea that after two NCAA titles, Wright might want a new challenge without leaving town sounds good. But he’s got new challenges all the time, including making history, moving up the pantheon of NCAA coaches. (Which active coaches have more than his pair? A guy in Durham, N.C., has five, and a guy in Chapel Hill has three. That’s it)
Also, let’s not assume staying put is perfect. Right now, Wright has reached legend status in this city. Sure, winning an NBA title would be higher ground. Now ask Bob Clarke whether past achievements mean much when you’re in a new role. You can hit lower ground, too. Ask Maurice Cheeks. (For college-to-pro guys, ask John Beilein).
The big reason Wright presumably wouldn’t take a standard coaching offer? He’s got 100% control. Villanova folks like to talk about the culture created within that program, how it now stands up to any culture in college hoops. But that takes a dictatorial touch, which is not how life works in the NBA.
Tell Ben Simmons to take three-pointers … he’ll take it under advisement.
Explain what you’re looking for Joel Embiid to truly lead his locker room …
Let’s assume Wright, around NBA players last summer for USA Basketball, has known every hurdle faced by Brett Brown. (Remember, former Brown assistant Billy Lange was Wright’s top assistant before that. Wright and Brown have also always been on good terms.)
Sure, there’s something to be said for coaching the top talents in the sport. But Wright wouldn’t be coaching a 21-year-old Simmons or 23-year-old Embiid. They are grown men. They are what their record says they are. (By the way, they’re not close to the top of the problem pile, just the stars you have to start with as a coach.)
You might think Wright can get past all that if he’s promised full control of basketball operations. The question: Should he believe it? This is the same ownership group that reportedly meddled in the draft several times, including when Wright’s own star player, Mikal Bridges, was chosen and traded, when the Sixers coach himself reportedly liked Bridges for his team.
The Colangelo family has turned into a dirty phrase among Sixers fans, deservedly so. They earned all the rage heaped on them. But Jerry Colangelo, head of USA Basketball for years, brought Wright into the USA Basketball inner circle. Maybe Jerry could have convinced Jay that there was a fit, but that was many Sixers missteps ago. There are no easy ways out right now.
Ask 10 people who know Wright well if this might be the time, five will say, could be the time, if there ever is a time … the other five say, no way, no shot.
What none of them say is that he’s the wrong man for the job.
What I say … Are we sure the Nets isn’t the better job?