By Mary Cunningham
“Let’s get ready to rock this house,” Villanova coach Jay Wright bellowed to the crowd at the Pavilion last night.
The Wildcats unveiled the 2016 national championship banner and received their rings at a students-only ceremony that saw the team dancing and dunking, and even featured a little jig from 81-year-old former coach Rollie Massimino.
Wright seemed to have a catch in his voice when he presented Massimino with a national championship ring. Massimino, who led the Wildcats to the ’85 title, hired Wright as an assistant in 1987 and the two have been tight for 30 years.
The Wildcats even raised a new and modern 1985 championship banner to match the one in the rafters for 2016.
Ryan Arcidiacono, cut last week by the San Antonio Spurs, received one of the loudest ovations from the 5,000-plus fans that lined up hours before the doors opened for the campus ceremony. Arcidiacono made the pass to Kris Jenkins for the biggest shot in program history – his buzzer-beating 3-pointer in a 77-74 win over North Carolina in the national championship game.
The Wildcats marched out in two, single-file lines with heads bowed and a hand on a teammates’ shoulder. Villanova senior forward Darryl Reynolds told the fans “all of our lives matter,” to start the ceremony.
Josh Hart, the Big East preseason player of the year, took the mic and yelled, “whose house it?!”
“Our house!” fans screamed back.
“You all show some love for my brother Kris Jenkins,” Hart said.
Jenkins received a massive ovation when he walked out for the celebration. Massimino shuffled his feet for a short dance when he was introduced to the crowd by ESPN announcer Seth Greenberg.
Wright climbed the ladder used to cut the nets in Houston and tossed T-shirts to the crowd.
“It hits you in different phases,” Wright said. “It’s been over for me. But you kind of relive it again tonight.”
Wildcat fans hurled blue and white streamers on the court after the first basket of a scrimmage and Wright called the play-by-play action from the bench. He made the losing blue team that included Hart and starting guard Jalen Brunson get down for 10 push-ups because they lost.
“That was a great celebration of last year,” Wright said, “and we want you guys to keep partying as long as you want to.”