LEVITTOWN, Pa. – Kyle Neptune has some big shoes to fill.
Neptune, a former Villanova assistant men’s basketball coach, is succeeding the legendary Jay Wright, a 2021 Basketball Hall of Famer who won two national championships at Villanovain 2016 and 2018.
Wright compiled a 520-197 record (244-123 in the Big East Conference) during his 21 seasons and took Villanova to the Final Four on four occasions, including this year. The Wildcats lost to eventual champion Kansas while accumulating 30 wins for the sixth time.
But Wright wasn’t an instant success. He went 31-51 in his first three seasons as a head coach at Hofstra before improving to 91-44 during his last four (1997-2001), culminating with a pair of America East Tournament championships and trips to the NCAA Tournament. He also was 52-46 in his first three years at Villanova prior to reaching the NCAA Tournament with a 24-8 record in 2004-05.
Here are some things to know about Neptune, who will officially be introduced during a news conference at the school Friday:
Third time’s the charm
Neptune had two previous stints at Villanova. First, he was the Wildcats ‘video coordinator from 2008-10, then spent three years as an assistant coach at Niagara before returning to’ Nova for eight seasons (2013-21).
Neptune went 16-16 in his one year as head coach at Fordham, guiding the Rams to a win at the Atlantic 10 Tournament for the first time since 2007, before being named the retiring Wright’s successor Wednesday night.
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The highlight of Neptune’s playing career at Lehigh was averaging 11.1 points and 5.1 rebounds as a junior.
The 6-foot-5 Neptune had five points and five rebounds in 33 minutes during an 84-47 loss to Villanova at the Pavilion on Nov. 27, 2005. He scored a career-high 24 points in a December 2005 win over Harvard.
At Brooklyn Friends School, Neptune played on the 2003 state championship team, scoring a school-record 1,650 points during his high school career.
Getting into coaching
Neptune told the Morning Call he decided he wanted to be a coach after playing in Lithuania and Puerto Rico for a year following his graduation from Lehigh with a journalism degree.
“Just through knowing a couple of people, I was lucky enough to get on the video coordinator at Villanova,” Neptune said. “It just worked out. I really caught the bug of coaching when I got to Villanova.”
The Wright stuff
Wright spoke highly of Neptune when Neptune was on his staff, saying “Kyle has demonstrated all the qualities you want to see in a young coach – commitment, passion and the ability to communicate with young people.”
He’s regarded as a very good recruiter, which is essential in college basketball today.
Tom Moore: tmoore @ couriertimes; TomMoorePhilly