The 2016 NCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship is one of those “where were you when” moments in sports. The last five seconds of that game were the greatest in the history of college basketball. Marcus Paige threw up a hope and a prayer with under five seconds left, and after he levitated for a couple seconds, it found the bottom of the basket. But one of the most miraculous shots in recent memory was to be one-upped by Kris Jenkins. Kris “Big Smooth” Jenkins beat the buzzer with a no-regard-for human-life, cold-blooded dagger to capture Villanova’s second national championship. Aside from the pure bedlam that the players were responsible on the court, off the court is just as important. Jay Wright and Roy Williams are exemplary coaches.
Villanova’s Jay Wright ended the game with a stoic, unfazed expression that resembled the Rocky statue. “GQ Jay” is best known for his suits that make men want to be him and women want to be near him. Wright’s attire is stuck in the middle of a South Philly goodfella, mobster and a banking executive in Center City. But the most fashionable thing Coach Wright did was go to shake Roy Williams’ hand before he did anything celebratory.
“That was one of the great college basketball games we’ve ever been a part of,” Wright said to the AP. “We didn’t just beat a great team, but a great program, classy program and before they determined that shot was good Roy came right up to me and said I’m really disappointed for our guys, it was a great game, but I’m really happy for you. I know he meant that.”
“You’re like a parent when you’re a coach. I just couldn’t be prouder, couldn’t be happier to see them enjoy this and fulfill their dreams,” Wright told the AP. “That’s what it’s all about for a coach, just to see their eyes, to see their satisfaction, their enjoyment. There’s no better feeling in the world for a coach or a parent.”
Coach Roy Williams was on the other end of the spectrum in terms of emotion. He and his basketball team just took the gut-punch of a lifetime.
“You know Tracy I’ve been a head coach for 28 years, and the worst thing is on a loss like this I feel so inadequate, because I don’t know how to make it better” Coach Williams told Tracy Wolfson after the game, while fighting back tears.
“You can’t say anything that takes the hurt away and you can’t say anything that changes it. But I don’t know if I’ve ever had a team that I’ve been this proud of,” Williams said.
“They’re worthy champions (Villanova), but I love my kids in that locker room,” Williams said.
The championship game will go down as one of the greatest in the history of basketball, but this game transcended sports. Players played the right way. They had respect for the game and the opponent, and fought tooth and nail until the bitter end. Coaches coached the right way. Their players were in the prime position to win a championship and the results were handled with dignity and poise.
There may never be another championship game quite like this one. The unbridled, relentless determination on the court was paired with courteous and diligent coaching. Everything about that game oozes with greatness. Jay Wright and Roy Williams are class personified, and their programs embody what those two men stand for.