Villanova’s men’s basketball coach Jay Wright is a national figure, well known for his movie star looks, his stylish suits, his composed demeanor, and his thoughtful interviews.
His players have had great success both on and off the court. Currently the team is ranked 6th in the nation, and for the past two years has had a 100% graduation rate, one of only four schools in the NCAA tournament field to do so (the others were Harvard, Duke, and Kansas).
He’s generous with his time, helping out at Villanova’s Annual Day of Service, serving as an occasional guest lecturer in the Business School, and representing Villanova at numerous alumni functions around the country.
Bu the thing I’ll always remember about Jay, and the reason why I have so much respect for Jay, was a little incident that I was likely the only person to witness.
Jay and his coaching staff had just eaten lunch at the cafeteria in the Business School and were heading back to the basketball practice facility. While they were walking, I noticed Jay stop for a second, bend down to pick up what appeared to be an empty candy wrapper, then place it into a trashcan.
The whole incident probably lasted three seconds, but it left an indelible mark on me. There was Jay Wright, easily the most recognizable person on campus, someone who earns a seven-figure salary and puts in 15 hour days, stopping to pick up a piece of trash, while surrounded by his assistants.
There were no TV cameras around to record the incident, and like I said, I may have been the only person, other than his assistants, to have seen what just happened. In the grand scheme of things, it may have seemed like a non-event.
You hear people talk all the time about how it’s the little things that make a big difference. This incident was a little thing, but I’ve often thought of the message it sent, even if it was just to his small group of assistants.
My guess is that all the coaches that day saw the candy wrapper laying on the ground, but only one of the coaches took the time to pick it up and put it in the trash. It’s not someone else’s job to do things like that, it’s everyone’s job.
As a college coach, you stress the importance of excellence and taking pride in what you do, both to the players and the coaches. From the way you practice, to the way you deal with the media, to the way you conduct yourself off the court. Helping to keep the campus clean is just another part of promoting excellence, of taking pride in your home away from home.
Coaches need to be leaders, and one of the best ways to be an effective leader is to set a good example. Often times this involves doing the things that no one else wants to do, or is not even aware that such things need to be done.
Coach Wright’s actions that day have had a direct impact on me. There’s probably not a day that goes by when I don’t pick up a stray piece of paper or throw out a cup left behind in class by a student. If I hadn’t seen what Coach did that day, I’m not sure I would even be aware of the need to do such things.
So here’s to Jay Wright. Thanks for being such a great role model for your coaches, your players, the Villanova student body, and the faculty and staff. Thanks for creating a winning attitude among the Nova Nation. And thanks for helping to keep our campus clean.