Villanova coach Wright gets 600th win in victory over Butler

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Villanova head coach Jay Wright reacts to a call during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Butler, Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020, in Villanova, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

VILLANOVA, Pa. – Jay Wright flashed the “V” toward empty bleachers and then encountered a divine interception on his way to celebrate in the locker room. His face red and bundled in winter clothes, the Rev. Peter M. Donohue stopped Wright to congratulate him on his 600th career coaching victory.

Donohue, Villanova’s president, had no idea Wright was near the milestone until he heard it mentioned on TV. So he walked in the snow to the Pavilion — even in this era with no fans allowed inside the arena, a Very Important President gets a free pass — to greet Wright after the victory.

Donohue wasn’t alone in nearly missing No. 600. The Wildcats were set to head home until graduate assistants clued them in on the mark.

“I was confused because I thought somebody would have mentioned it,” guard Collin Gillespie said.

Already a two-time national champion and the winningest coach in program history, Wright won his 600th career game in the No. 7 Wildcats’ 85-66 victory over Butler on Wednesday night.

“It just means I know I have a really good job,” Wright said.

Wright (600-268) became the 39th coach in Division I history to reach 600 wins. He is 478-183 at Villanova since he was hired in 2001 and has built the Wildcats into one of the elite programs in college basketball. Wright won national championships in 2016 and 2018 and again has the preseason favorite to win the Big East — a team expected to contend for another national title.

Wright earned the milestone in the latest home opener for Villanova since Dec. 22, 1992, against Vermont. The pandemic wreaked havoc on the schedule and Villanova had home games against Temple, Saint Joseph’s and DePaul canceled or postponed. So the Wildcats hit the road and went 4-1 in Connecticut’s “Bubbleville” and won at Texas and Georgetown.