Jay Wright didn’t expect this. He figured coming off the heels of an Eagles Super Bowl championship folks might be partied out and skip Villanova’s second NCAA championship parade in three years. Especially factoring in the chill in the air. He was wrong. Turns out everyone still loves a parade.
They jammed Market Street for 10 blocks, even before the official start of the parade route, carrying Nova Nation signs and holding up giant blue V’s. Keeping warm, office workers joined in the celebration from their windows. And it was packed inside Dilworth Plaza for the ceremony, with Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney confessing he’d become a Wildcats fan-even though he graduated from LaSalle — before the players were introduced one by one.
The only thing missing from this parade was Jason Kelce strutting among the fans, though admittedly the turnout here wasn’t quite the same.
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Some 30 minutes later when it was over Wright was still at a loss.
“I didn’t think there’d be as many people today,” said the leader of the Cats, who made it a point to stress that Villanova is very much a Philadelphia team. “I thought following the Eagles and the fact we did this two years ago people might not come out. But this is unbelievable.”
Jalen Brunson, who’s expected to be named John Wooden “Player of the Year” tonight in Los Angeles, had just one complain.
“It was a lot warmer last time,” said Brunson, one of several shivering Wildcats. “But this is still great.”
Brunson, who was serenaded by Villanova fans pleading “one more year,” along with Mikal Bridges and even championship game star Donte DiVincenzo, will put all thoughts about turning pro on hold until next week according to Wright, who’ll receive the Wooden Legends of Coaching Award tonight in L.A.
“I’m having a hard time getting a grasp on that,” Wright admitted. “Anything connected with John Wooden is such an honor. It will be really special.”
But it will be awfully hard to top what he and his players experienced again, leaving them greedy for more.
After two titles in three years who wants to bet against them?