After a shaky first half, Villanova went up by 10 with 5:12 to play. Five minutes is an eternity in basketball, especially when the lead is in single-digits. Getting it to double figures was one thing. Keep it there was the challenge.
Villanova was not playing a team that would just roll over and die, especially in the National Championship game. North Carolina stormed back. The lead was down to three in 90 seconds, but Villanova increased it back to six with 1:36 to go.
This is where Jay Wright shines as the ambassador of cool, calm and collected. In what may go down as the wildest, craziest, most exciting 96 seconds in college basketball history, Wright never wavered from Villanova's game-plan or his mild-mannered exterior. Always one to teach, one to instruct, one to make sure that detail was used where it needed to be, he helped Villanova without doing anything.
When the Wildcats were faced with five seconds left and one shot at the win before overtime, no play needed to be discussed. It was already in the minds of the five players on the floor. The perfect play was just the Wright stuff for Villanova.
When you think of Villanova basketball, you think of Rollie Massimino and 1985, the ultimate underdogs and the most unlikely of champions. Rollie remains a focal point of Villanova history, but Jay Wright now has forever been stamped into their history with a National Championship of his own. But it's so much more than that for Jay Wright.
Jay Wright isn't just Villanova basketball, he's very much everything that is Villanova University, the campus, the students, the Main Line, the community. But more than that, Wright is also the Big 5's representative on a national scale.
Wright was named Naismith National Coach of the Year this season, the second time he's taken home that honor. He's received praise from coaches across the nation in powerhouse programs that have dominated NCAA Tournaments in years past. And on Monday night, you saw why.
What do you do when a player who is sure to be NBA bound hits a shot that is out of this world? What do you say when that shot has tied the game and forces you to answer in a matter of seconds or have to somehow dig deeper in an extra five-minute session?
Nothing. Jay Wright said nothing. He didn't have to.
Ryan Arcidiacono has been compared to his coach in the attitude and desire for success that he brings to the court. With five seconds left and needing to go the length of the floor, the ball was in his hands.
It was a play executed to perfection. The speed of Arcidiacono, the size of Daniel Ochefu, the shooting ability of Kris Jenkins. Three players that have driven Villanova, carried them to that point, all factored into the biggest shot in school history.
Five seconds. An NBA-range three-pointer. Bang. Champions. Just like that.
And when the shot went down, sure, the players were anything but calm, cool and collected. But there was Jay Wright with no major reaction on the exterior, almost knowing that his players had this. And as they celebrated, Wright turned to meet Roy Williams at half-court, but also soaked in the moment, looking back at the celebratory pile of his players once, twice, another time.
A coach ends up treating his players like sons because in the end, when a season finally concludes, there is a bond that cannot be broken. Multiply that by four seasons, entire careers full of memories, full of teaching both basketball and life.
That's what makes Villanova's run so impressive. They were not only a cohesive unit that picked each other up when one player struggled but a group of individuals that alone probably couldn't change a game.
That's no knock on Villanova, it's the harsh reality of the powerhouses that dominated tournaments before them.
This wasn't Kentucky or Duke with three players destined for the NBA when their college careers were over or better yet after just two years of school. These are players who give it their all for four seasons and usually go on to star somewhere else off the court. And a lot of those teams have that one game-changing player.
Consider this: if Marcus Paige's miraculous game-tying three-pointer had won the title for UNC, the senior would have marched off to the NBA with that shot. But what if he wasn't a senior and just a sophomore. And what if he put up numbers like he did — 21 points, five rebounds and six assists — or what if he took on the role of Phil Booth and played out of his mind off the bench? Paige would have taken his clutch shot, forgone his final two seasons and turned pro.
Villanova doesn't possess those players. They are a team of good players that together became legendary.
That is Jay Wright. He is polished. He is Mr. Cool. And when the game was on the line and the championship won, he was cooler than cool.
He was trusting of his players and proud of what they had done. The moment wasn't about him. It was for him. And that makes it all the more special for the coach who for 15 years had come close to reaching the pinnacle of college basketball only to fall short and take the heat for it.
Now that he's had his moment, an unforgettable one at that, no one is talking about his shortcomings anymore. Instead, there is that great game, that memorable shot and Mr. Cool soaking it all in.
Kevin Durso is editorial assistant for Sports Talk Philly. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.