By Annie Ross

Villanona begins its climb for the national title Saturday night against Oklahoma, and even with its Final Four entry many radio listeners are still expressing anti-Wildcat sentiments.

So, when the Fanatic’s Mike Missanelli invited coach Jay Wright to his top-rated show yesterday, that dominated the dialogue:

MM: “You said a very interesting thing which we obviously talk about on sports talk radio: You’re not the most lovable team in Philly. Why do you think it is, and do you understand it?”

JW: “I do. We’re, you know, we’re out on the Main Line. Philly, you and I grew up in Lower Bucks County and it’s not even Northeast Philly.”

MM: “You grew up in lofty Lower Bucks County. That was loftier there than when I grew up.”

JW: “Anyway, it’s not Northeast Philly let’s put it that way. And Northeast Philly’s not North Philly. So, we’re out here on the Main Line, our students come from all over the country. Our kids come from all over the world. And we know what Philly is. We grew up loving all those Philly teams because they were Philly guys, came from Philly and go to school there. And you look out on the Main Line and that’s everything we’re not about in Philly. So we get it. But we love being a part of it. We are a part of it in the way with the Big Five that we love and we respect. And we do respect Philadelphia basketball. And all these guys wherever they come from, they wind up staying around here. And that’s a part of it, and obviously I’m from this area so I take a great pride in it. So I get it. You know, I was one of those guys. I loved St. Joe’s, Temple, La Salle, my parents didn’t go to any of those schools, so I liked all those schools. So I know why people like all the other schools.”

MM: “That’s good you have that perspective. I look at it like this is a sports team that should be separate than your feelings for a particular University. You know?”

JW: “I get that it’s hard to do though, because – and it’s one of the things I always say about the Big Five – every time we start a Big Five game and I walk out there, I’m kinda pinching myself because I grew up watching this, you know? My favorite coaches were Chuck Daly, Rollie Massimino, Jimmy Lynam, Paul Westhead, Don Casey. That’s the guys I looked up to. I didn’t look up to John Wooden or Adolf Rupp or any of those guys. If you grew up in Philly, that’s who you look up to. So when you start those games, I’m kinda pinching myself like I can’t believe I’m a part of this. But there’s another side of it, like damn this is competitive, I wanna beat these guys. I like these guys but I wanna beat ’em bad. It’s really weird, and you know how much they hate you. You know that too, and you get it. So it’s a really weird dynamic. When I try to explain that to people outside of Philly in basketball, they just don’t get it.”

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