NEW ORLEANS — Here’s how you know the era of basketball coaches wearing suits is officially dead: Even Jay Wright didn’t bring one to this year’s Final Four.
Wright, a sartorial icon of the profession during his 21 seasons at Villanova, has been part of the casual dress movement ever since the COVID-19 pandemic. Starting with the return of basketball in the NBA bubble, many coaches have chosen to ditch their suits in favor of more comfortable clothing.
But for many college basketball fans, this has been a troubling development. Few coaches have ever been better dressed on the sidelines than Wright, who won national titles in 2016 and 2018 wearing pristine pinstripe suits — the first black, the second dark blue with a light blue shirt underneath. There’s even a Twitter account called @JayWrightsSuit that pays eternal tribute to “College Basketball’s best dressed coach and sexiest National Champion.”
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Wright’s style remains so legendary, there was perhaps a cultish hope that Villanova’s return to the Final Four would mark the return of his three-piece suit rather than the quarter-zip and casual slacks he’s been wearing this entire season.
Alas, Wright confirmed Friday that he’ll keep it casual during Villanova’s semifinal game against Kansas.
“It’s easy packing,” said Wright, who considered bringing a suit in case he needed one for an off-court event but was ultimately told it wasn’t necessary.
Wright didn’t exactly explain his reasoning for eschewing the formal attire but said the current setup gives him more anxiety when Villanova travels because all the coaches are supposed to match.
“They send me pictures of what to wear,” Wright said. “I can’t tell the colors. I’m always nervous I match up the right gear. It’s difficult. When you wear a suit, I just pick whatever I want to pick. That’s been challenging for me this year.
“If I don’t match my guys — because we have so much stuff — it looks like (I) screwed it up. I’m much more nervous about that than I ever was about what suit I wore.”
Kansas coach Bill Self said the decision to remain casual this season was dictated by a coaches’ vote and hopes it remains that way into the future. There’s certainly value in looking good, especially in such an image-conscious and visible position like a college basketball coach. But at the end of the day, it’s just sports.
“Coaching against Jay, I’m happy there’s no wardrobe suits because nobody could compete with him in that regard,” Self said. “I like the direction it’s moving. It’s certainly a little more comfortable.”