Villanova won its second national championship in three years on Monday night, dominating Michigan in a 79-62 victory. This Wildcats finished 36-4 for the season, extending a remarkable five-year run: two national championships, four conference titles, 165 wins, four straight 30-win seasons.
This Catholic university of some 10,000 students, situated in suburban Philadelphia, has quietly become a college basketball power. But, how?
Coach Jay Wright has three key sayings he repeats over and over from the time players enter the program: Attitude. Together. Villanova basketball for 40 minutes.
"It's our culture. I always go back to our culture," former Villanova forward Kris Jenkins, who hit the championship winning shot in 2016, told the press after Monday night’s game. "There's so many great programs, so many great coaches, but I think our culture is what sets us apart."
"You can take guys like him, guys like me, turn them into national champions who aren't highly recruited, turn them into NBA players and develop them," said former Wildcat and current Los Angeles Laker Josh Hart, as he stood arm in arm with Villanova guard Mikal Bridges. "That's what it takes to be a great coach. He's not a big one-and-done guy. He doesn't get the best players in the country that if you put three of them together you're going to win 25 games easily. He takes guys who are under-recruited, talented guys, high-character guys, and helps transform them into great basketball players."
Villanova’s best player all season was guard Jalen Brunson, who was named College Basketball Player of the Year. Brunson scored just 9 points in the championship game, 10 below his season average. When it was over, Brunson didn’t care about his stat line.
“I can’t put this into words,” he said. “I love my brothers. I love my team. I love ’Nova nation. I love them. I love them to death.”
It was all about team for Brunson and the entire ‘Nova squad. They were less concerned with personal accolades, and consistently sacrificed personal goals for the good of the team. As Brunson said, “We don’t care who gets credit. If someone’s hot, feed him.”
The sentiment was reminiscent of words spoken by Michael Jordan some 30 years earlier, "Talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence wins championships."
In today’s “me first” culture, Villanova reminded us that it is by coming together and placing the benefit of the group as the highest goal, that greatness is produced. It is a lesson we all should take to heart.
Attitude. Together. Family. Business. Team. Nation… We all win.
*Read other stories like this in my new book, The Average Joe’s Super Sports Almanac https://steveriach.com/products/the-average-joes-super-sports-almanac)