PHILADELPHIA– It was teacher vs student tonight at the Wells Fargo Center as Villanova head coach Jay Wright took on Quinnipiac, led by former Villanova player and assistant coach Baker Dunleavy.
In this matchup, the teacher would prevail as Villanova went on to dismantle Quinnipiac 86-53.
“He (Dunleavy) said I saw how you played against Morgan State and knew this buzzsaw was coming,” Wright said. “And he knows and I said to him ‘I knew you knew that’.”
Wright has faced off against former assistants before. He got the best of then-Boston University and current Penn State head coach Pat Chambers in 2009, beat Billy Lange at Navy twice as well as beating Joe Jones three times, twice at Columbia and once at Boston. You can now add Dunleavy to the list of former Wright assistant coaches to fall to Villanova. La Salle head coach Ashley Howard will look to break Wright’s undefeated record against former assistant coaches this year.
This one though was much different than any other matchup Wright has had with prior assistant coaches.
Dunleavy played at Villanova from 2003 to 2006 and then went on to be an assistant on Wright’s staff from 2010 to 2017.
“He was a very valuable player in this program and kind of got us started and then as a coach, really valuable so not many people that kind of have his legacy here,” Wright said. “He’s very very well thought of so it was weirder than most.”
“It’s hard, part of it is hard,” Dunleavy said. “It’s fun to see all of those guys but this is a one-time thing, you play these games against really difficult opponents and then you mix-in the emotion of being home and being with family so we’ll do this one time and we’re done with that part of it but it’s great to see those guys, obviously this place means a lot to me.”
As a player for Wright, Dunleavy didn’t see much action, averaging 2.7 mpg and only averaging a point a game in his three years with Villanova. But as an assistant coach under Wright, Dunleavy enjoyed plenty of success.
The Wildcats made the NCAA Tournament six out of the seven seasons Dunleavy was on staff, two Big East Tournament titles, four straight Big East regular season titles, and one national title.
As a longtime assistant to Wright, many aspects of Wright’s offense were implemented into the offense Dunleavy runs at Quinnipiac.
“It’s seemed like a good idea when we talked about it but then when it comes the week before and I’m watching film of them do what we do,” Wright said. “I said to the team before the game ‘whatever play we call, they know everything we do so it’s going to be tough to run specific plays’ so I didn’t particularly enjoy it, this was really stranger because we haven’t really changed anything since he’s been here and he recruited these guys.”
Having been two-years removed from Villanova, Dunleavy still notices the same things he preached at Villanova as a disciple to Wright, but as we’re only two games into the season, it was more of who was on the court than what was being run on the court.
“It’s probably more the personnel,” Dunleavy said. “It’s probably more the new players trying to find their roles and where they fit, I think the basics of what they do of Villanova basketball are there, I think it’s pretty consistent, you get two seniors who will be utilized a lot and maybe more-so then in the past but those guys are ready for it and they’re pretty good.”
Phil Booth notched a career-high 23 points on Saturday, beating out his former career-high 21 he set against Xavier last season.
Collin Gillespie also got in on the action as he finished with 16 points on 6-9 shooting including 4-6 from downtown.
Dunleavy’s return wasn’t the only reunion that occurred at the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday night. Gillespie and Quinnipiac guard Tyree Pickron were both teammates at Archbishop Wood.
“It was a lot of fun,” Gillespie said. “I talked to him a few times this week, he was excited, it was his first college game but it’s always fun seeing him and I played with him for four years in high school so it was fun playing against him for the first time.”
Up next for Villanova is a rematch of last season’s national championship game against Michigan on Wednesday night at the Pavilion.
On alumni night at the Wells Fargo Center, where many former Villanova basketball players were honored at halftime, it only made sense for a former player to be coaching on the opposing sideline.
“I was glad to get him back here on alumni night and he’s really well respected and loved by our alumni so I was glad he was here for that.” Wright said.