The Philadelphia 76ers fired Brett Brown on Monday, at which point Villanova manager Jay Wright emerged as an obvious candidate. Predictably, some quickly began to explain why he should not, under any circumstances, have made the leap from college to the NBA with the most cited reason being that Villanova’s job is simply a better job than the 76ers’ job.
But here’s my question: is it really?
To be clear, I’m not arguing that Jay Wright doesn’t have a better chance of consistently winning at a high level at Villanova than he would with the 76ers. The man has won two of the last four NCAA tournaments and will enter next season with a team talented enough to do it again. It’s a future Naismith Memorial Hall of Famer with what equates to a lifetime contract in Villanova. It is a beautiful situation, undeniably.
But what’s important to understand is that a good college job is very different from a good NBA job. I don’t insist that one is better than the other. Different people might draw different conclusions about this. All I’m saying is that they are very different jobs that lead to very different lifestyles. Put simply, NBA coaches don’t have to deal with many things that college coaches are consumed with. As Kansas coach Bill Self once told me, in college basketball, coaching basketball is “only about 10% of the job.”
Think about it.
A college basketball coach (in non-pandemic times) spends an incredible number of days traveling the country and evaluating the prospects. They write to them, FaceTime them, talk to their parents, siblings, high school coaches and grassroots coaches. They take them to campus. They have breakfast and dinner with them. They fly to conduct home visits with them. It can be exhausting, overwhelming and, in many cases, a huge waste. Meanwhile, college coaches also deal with agents, runners and promoters, with academic advisors, mentors, and consultants. That’s just a lot of … stuff. And it has almost nothing to do with basketball training. Some like it, sure. But many coaches view everything that happens outside of training and matches as little more than a necessary part of the job that is a total pain in the ass because it requires them to work, somehow, almost 352 days a year.
NBA coaches think very differently.
They do not travel the country considering prospects who will never coach. They don’t write and FaceTime with teens. They are not responsible for making sure anyone attends the lesson. They don’t have to chat with wealthy donors. They don’t have to work 12 months a year. In fact, when the NBA season is over, in normal times, most coaches can disappear for weeks, if not more. It’s just a much less demanding lifestyle, which I know some coaches find attractive. In his first year after leaving Butler for the Boston Celtics, I remember Brad Stevens telling me he hated the defeat he was taking thanks to a rebuild, but that he liked the fact that all he was really required to do was watch movies. and coach. I know that Billy Donovan also didn’t mind giving up many of his non-basketball responsibilities when he left Florida to coach the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Is this what Jay Wright wants too?
I’m not sure.
But if he is offered the opportunity to coach an NBA franchise with two young All-Stars located 32 miles from where he went to high school and just 24 miles from where he currently works, I can understand why he might be forced to listen and maybe even do it. . Ultimately, it wouldn’t necessarily be about choosing between Villanova’s job and the 76ers’ job as it might be about choosing between the college lifestyle and the NBA lifestyle. And while I won’t try to tell Jay Wright which he should prefer, what I do know is that what Brad Stevens and Billy Donovan would tell him is more fun if he’s tired of the non-basketball stuff that goes hand in hand with. coaching on a collegiate level.