Jay Wright, Duke Blue Devils coach has had success on the court and off. With a string of NCAA tournaments in his coaching career, he’s become one of college basketball’s most celebrated mentors.
Jay Wright’s suits are in the Hall of Fame, but he’s going casual for the Final Four. The Jay Wright retirement is a story that has been talked about since it was announced back in December.
6:14 p.m. Eastern
ESPN’s Pete Thamel
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana — Jay Wright of the Villanova Wildcats has long been the debonair king of collegiate basketball. His ascension to the top of the sport’s coaching ranks was matched by a slew of stunning sideline outfits, with no striking design going unnoticed.
Wright’s costumes have become as much a characteristic of Villanova basketball as the program’s dedication to pivots, shot fakes, and making the extra pass as the program’s devotion to pivots, shot fakes, and making the extra pass has been.
Wright will not be wearing one of his signature outfits on the sidelines when No. 2-seed Villanova takes on No. 1-seed Kansas Jayhawks in the NCAA tournament national semifinal on Saturday.
“I’m not sure I’ll wear a suit since I don’t have one,” Wright said. “But it was enjoyable. It’s simple to pack.”
This revelation will most likely surprise casual fans while coming as no surprise to those who follow the sport attentively. Like most coaches, Wright has spent the previous two seasons on the sidelines dressed casually. This is a departure from the coach, whose two championship suits from 2016 and 2018 have been inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame.
At 2016, Jay Wright wore this outfit while coaching the North Carolina Tar Heels in the Final Four. Getty Images/Streeter Lecka
When the sport was reintroduced after being suspended due to the coronavirus epidemic in 2020, Wright, like the vast majority of collegiate and NBA coaches, went for a more relaxed style. Dressing up for an empty gym didn’t make sense.
Three-quarter zips replaced the pinstripes, checkers, and patterned suits that followed Wright’s climb to the top of the sport’s coaching ranks. Gabe D’Annunzio, Wright’s longtime tailor, died last year. “We need something that’s going to pop,” D’Annunzio would tell Wright, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
This is Wright’s fourth Final Four appearance, and the first since the popularity of casual sideline dress became widespread. As a result, as Wright was packing, he quipped that he phoned his sports information director, Mike Sheridan, to check if there were any Final Four activities that needed him to dress up.
Instead, the task becomes coordinating athleisure attire on the sidelines for the whole coaching staff.
“The difficult part for me is that we all dress the same,” Wright said, “so we all have the same shirt, the same — they give me photographs of what to wear.” “I’m having trouble distinguishing the hues. I’m constantly worried that I’m not putting the correct gear together. It’s challenging because when I’m wearing a suit, I can wear anything I want.”
Jay Wright’s Final Four outfits from 2016 and 2018 are in the Basketball Hall of Fame. Getty Images/Tom Pennington
Davidson’s Bob McKillop, Iona’s Rick Pitino, Vanderbilt’s Jerry Stackhouse, and incoming Maryland coach Kevin Willard are among the few college basketball coaches who still wear suits. Neither North Carolina’s Hubert Davis nor Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski had worn suits throughout their games in the other Final Four meeting.
Wright is no longer a part of that universe. Kansas coach Bill Self will be relieved when he steps onto the court of the Final Four on Saturday in front of a raucous crowd at the Caesars Superdome. The apparent fashion mismatch was recognized by Self.
“In that way, no one could compete with him,” Self remarked. “But I appreciate how we’re going about it. Yes, I do. I’m hoping it continues like way in the future. I know, I believe our leagues will have a large influence on what the coaches do, since our league decided overwhelmingly to do so.”
Traditionalists and tailors would grieve the end of an era, but Self saw one bright side. “You don’t have to pay for dry cleaning.”
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