In 2000, I remember calling then-Delaware head coach Mike Brey and asking him what I might be missing in his league, the America East. Brey said, "You need to check out Hofstra.

They have a couple of pros, and their coach is the real deal." Brey was talking about Speedy Claxton and Norman Richardson, and their young coach, Jay Wright. I started watching Hofstra, and I was drawn to Wright.

The next season, after Claxton had graduated, Hofstra made the NCAA tournament and played UCLA in Greensboro, North Carolina. I took a busman's holiday and went to watch Wright up close, from courtside.

UCLA beat Wright's Hofstra team, and I sought out Wright after the game, the first time we had met and really talked. I was immediately impressed. He was, indeed, the "real deal." Once you saw it up close, you couldn't miss it.

In his early days at Villanova, it was tough sledding to get the Wildcat program to the highest level, and Wright was sanguine and humbled over the challenge. Villanova went to the NIT in Wright's first three seasons.

After the 2004 season, Wright was headlining a Villanova alumni event in Charlotte, North Carolina. My friend Mike Gminski and I went to the event to support Jay, and took him to dinner afterward.

Over an Italian meal at Primo, Wright mused over the challenge of the job, and whether he could do it. Almost incredulous, Gminski and I said to him that he could not only do it, but he would coach Villanova to multiple Final Fours in his time there. We were both believers.

Of course, that hardly made us Nostradamus. Jay Wright represented the very best the coaching profession had to offer.