Villanova basketball coach Kyle Neptune has massive shoes to fill. A former longtime assistant with the Wildcats, he took the reins of the program after former coach Jay Wright made the surprising decision to step away from coaching after the 2021-22 season. Neptune’s Villanova suffered a 2-point loss to a strong Michigan State team Friday night, going head-to-head against Tom Izzoone of the longest tenured coaches in all of college basketball. After the game, Izzo shared the advice that he gave Neptune.
“I told him before the game, I said, ‘Hey, win, lose or draw, next week give me a buzz,'” Izzo said. “I talked to Jay Wright yesterday, I talked to him today a little bit. I said, ‘I went through what you’re going through. Give me a call and I’ll try to tell you what I went through.’ As the game was ending, I was saying to myself, ‘Who in the hell am I to tell him something? He did a better job than I did.’ I think that program is in good hands and they’re gonna be fine. Tough loss to Temple. Not that Temple’s not a good team, but tough loss to Temple, a game that they led most of the way.
“I think that’s what you’re seeing in college basketball right now. I’ve never seen so many different upsets and things. And that’s what makes this week so special to me. We could’ve won three, probably played good enough to win all three, to be very honest with you, because we played good enough tonight. That’s encouraging, but boy, when you play this kind of competition, your margin for error is zero. And ours is zero to start with. It’s zero against average teams, and it’s really zero against really, really good teams.”
Izzo is in the middle of his 28th season as a head coach, each of which he spent with the Spartans. Neptune was 10 years old when Izzo was hired as Michigan State’s head coach, and he was not even born yet when Izzo got his collegiate coaching career started in 1979 as an assistant at Northern Michigan.
Neptune, who played collegiately at Lehigh, is in just his second season total as a head coach. He was an assistant under Wright from 2013-21 and was named the head coach at Fordham ahead of the 2021-22 season.
In his lone season with the Rams, he guided them to a 16-16 record, including an 8-10 mark in Atlantic 10 Conference play. Fordham beat George Mason in the first round of the A-10 Tournament before falling to top-seeded Davidson in the quarterfinals.
He was tabbed as Wright’s successor on April 20, 2022, just a couple weeks after the Wildcats wrapped up an appearance in the NCAA Tournament Final Four.
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“I was very impressed on film with Villanova and in person,” Izzo said. “I told my team before the game it’ll be the toughest team we play all year as far as physically tough, and they were every bit of that. … That is a very well-coached, very good team. And I’d like to give some credit to Jay Wright, because the culture of that program is so good that even though I thought Kyle did a hell of a job, remember I think four of those guys played in the Final Four last year. Some of them are sixth-year guys and fifth-year – they’ve been in that program. That’s what I’m trying to do here, so that the program, turn it over to another coach some day, the program continues and the culture continues. I was really, really impressed with that.”