The Knicks’ list of eight interviewees could expand, but there will be no interview with Villanova stud coach Jay Wright.
According to an NBA source, the Knicks will not speak to Wright to conclude an exhaustive coaching search that has now taken them to Europe for David Blatt.
But the search won’t take Knicks president Steve Mills and GM Scott Perry to northwest Philadelphia this time.
Wright’s agent, in his first public remarks since a published report stated the Knicks have interest, said on the record Wright won’t speak to any NBA clubs and will defend the school’s 2018 NCAA championship.
“He’s under contract with Villanova and he’s very, very happy there,’’ his longtime agent, Carl Hirsch, told The Post. “There’s no plans to leave.’’
According to an industry source, at least two NBA teams reached out to Wright’s reps, one believed to be the Knicks. Other teams with openings are Orlando, Charlotte, Phoenix and potentially Atlanta with Mike Budenholzer’s dalliance with the Knicks.
Wright, the former Hofstra coach, has coached Villanova to two of the past three NCAA titles. Wright was in Italy with Villanova’s Board of Trustees during the first week of the Knicks’ coaching search and met with the pope.
Wright hasn’t commented since April 10 — two days before Jeff Hornacek was fired — and appeared emphatic about staying despite expressing some NBA lust. Still, conspiracy theorists wondered if perhaps Wright — at the bitter end of the search — could surface as the Knicks’ ace in the hole.
After all, Wright could lose as many as five players to the draft, even the NCAA championship hero, Donte DiVincenzo.
Mikal Bridges, whom the Knicks will consider if they remain in the ninth hole, and Jalen Brunson are definites. Omari Spellman and Eric Paschall are exploring their options.
One industry source connected to college basketball opined recently: “The cupboard might be a little bare w/out Brunson, Bridges and Spellman.. I could see Jay having enough confidence in himself to change culture and start winning in New York. Especially if they pay at market rate.”
Two weeks ago, Perry all but confirmed he would reach out to Wright when asked if he saw a coach in the NCAA Tournament who intrigued him.
“I saw some exciting basketball during the NCAA Tournament,” Perry said, smiling. “We’re not going to address any names, whether it’s college or pro, but it’s going to be an open search. Having been a former college coach, I always kind of keep an eye on those ranks anyway, so we’ll see.”
Indications are Wright is set to get a financial boost from Villanova this offseason as he reportedly makes between $2.5 million and $3 million per year.
On April 10, Wright, acknowledging perhaps a future desire to coach in the NBA, said in a Q&A in The Athletic:
“I’m staying. I love it here. I love what we’re doing. I’m just really happy. I said when I was at Hofstra and I didn’t take other jobs, I used that old Jim Valvano line, ‘Don’t mess with happy.’ That seemed appropriate at Hofstra until this job opened. It’s still really appropriate. I’m very happy here. I don’t need another challenge. I like happy better than a new challenge.
“The NBA does intrigue me. That challenge is appealing, but it’s not worth giving up working with these guys. The whole thing is, to take a new challenge you have to give up what you have. I don’t want to give up what I have. Would I like to coach in the NBA? Yes. But I have to give this up in order to do that, and I don’t see that happening.”
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