Hofstra Coach Offered Villanova Job

Monday, March 26th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

PHILADELPHIA (AP) _ Jay Wright, who led Hofstra into the last two NCAA tournaments, has been given the chance to return to his hometown as the basketball coach at Villanova.

Wright, being wooed by several other schools including Tennessee, said Monday he was offered the Villanova job by Wildcats athletic director Vince Nicastro, but ``has not made a decision at this time.''

``I did meet with Villanova on Sunday and was offered the position,'' Wright said in a statement released by Hofstra. ``It's a tremendous opportunity that I must consider, but I have not made a decision at this time.''

Wright, who led the Pride to a 26-4 record and a second straight America East Conference title, would replace Steve Lappas, who unexpectedly resigned Saturday after nine years at Villanova and was hired as coach at Massachusetts on Monday.

A final decision by Wright is expected as early as Tuesday, after the much-sought-after coach interviews for the Tennessee job with Vols athletic director Doug Dickey in New York. Tennessee is looking to replace Jerry Green, who resigned last week even though he led the Vols to the NCAA tournament in all four seasons he coached them.

Nicastro said he had a ``very productive'' meeting with Wright and his agent, Carl Hirsh, on Sunday, at which Wright was offered the coaching job.

``We're optimistic. We're still having some discussions with him. We don't have an official agreement just yet,'' Nicastro said Monday.

Neither Wright nor Hirsh were immediately available for further comment.

The 39-year-old Wright was born in Philadelphia and was a Villanova assistant for five years.

Villanova was 18-13 this season and failed to make the NCAA tournament. The Wildcats then lost to Minnesota on March 14 in the NIT, closing a season that began 11-2.

Hofstra lost its first-round NCAA tournament game the past two years, dropping a hard-fought 61-48 decision to UCLA on March 15. In 2000, Oklahoma State beat the Pride 86-66.

Lappas was hired at Massachusetts to replace James ``Bruiser'' Flint, who resigned after a 15-15 season.

Wright was a top candidate for the UMass job, and also has interviewed at Rutgers.