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Jay Wright knows John Beilein well: “Greatest guy in the world”

Real recognizes real

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-Villanova vs Kansas Shanna Lockwood-USA TODAY Sports

Villanova head coach Jay Wright had his press conference earlier today, where he provided plenty of candid answers. A couple of which shed light on the relationship he and Michigan head coach John Beilein have.

Wright and Beilein know each other well, they’ve been friends for decades. Their wives are friends as well, as they were tennis partners when Beilein coached at West Virginia in the Big East while Wright was the coach of Villanova.

As the old saying goes, “you are who your friends are,” and this appears to be the case when it comes to Wright and Beilein. Villanova recruits the same profile players as Michigan, according to Wright. And because of how they recruit and who they recruit, these two programs are considered to be among the cleanest in the country.

When it comes to what Wright thinks of Beilein and the Michigan program, here are his comments.

How long has Wright known Beilein?

Wright: “My first coaching job was University of Rochester under Mike Neer in 1984, and John was the head coach at LeMoyne College, which is a Division II school in Syracuse, so he was in Syracuse, I was in Rochester. Division III assistant coach is about as low as you can be in the college basketball business. So John was Division II head coach. And just like he is now, just nicest guy in the world. I was a first-year coach. He was always really friendly. But the recruiting back then was, in upstate New York, we would recruit guys all year, then John would wait until the end of the year, because he had the scholarship, we didn’t. You’d be on a guy and you’d just hope you wouldn’t see John in the gym. And, like, in April, he’d pop in and he’d see you. You’d say, are you going to take him, John? He goes, yeah, I’m sorry, but we’re going to take him. And you just — because he was the only Division II team that had scholarship. Division III guys, they would have to pay. But he was always the nicest guy and as a young assistant he was always nice to me. He was young, too. But just the greatest guy. Then we came to the Big East together, me at Villanova and him at West Virginia. Our wives played tennis together at the Big East. I’ve got a good one. When the Big East broke up and they left, Patty said, oh, my God. I’m going to lose my tennis partner. Kathy is leaving. I said, we’re losing a great coach and a great team. It’s a little bit bigger than that. It’s a little scary. But just everything you see in John is what you get. Greatest guy in the world, man, great coach.”

When asked if Villanova goes after similar profile players as Michigan and runs into U-M on the recruiting trail

Wright: “Yeah, we definitely are. And we do run into them a lot. Because John has East Coast ties also. But the same kind of players, same kind of schools except for state school, private school, high academic schools. I think both of us are looking for guys that want to be in college. And we both love having guys that are pros too, but we want guys that want to be part of a program. So we do run into them a lot. And they do have a freshman on the team right now that I thought we were going to get from Pennsylvania and probably not allowed to say who I really felt we were getting and John beat us for him. And he’s going to be a really good player for them.”