Typically, the head coach of the national championship team is the last one to go up the ladder and cut down the net to commemorate a college basketball national championship. But this year’s Villanova Wildcats team did things a little differently. Coach Jay Wright passed that honor to the team chaplain, Father Rob Hagan OSA.
It’s not something that the two had planned either. Father Hagan says that he was surprised when Coach Wright told him to cut down the net.
“I’m honored to be the one to take [the net] down, to stand with all these brothers together. We talk all the time about doing it together and it’s so nice to be a part of it.” Father Hagan said.
OSA stands for Order of Saint Augustine, a Catholic order of priests whose values have been embraced by Coach Wright and his team.
“He’s such a big part of this team and the Augustinians are a big part of this program, obviously a big part of the university and it’s a big part of our culture,” Coach Wright said after the championship game. “These guys live the Augustinian values, they really do. It’s a life of community, it’s not about celebrating the individual but understanding that you can do great things individually when you’re part of a great community.”
And Father Hagan agrees that this team exemplifies the teachings he’s tried to instill in the players. He was happy that they were able to show what a group of selfless and talented young men were capable of when they worked together.
“This team has an incredible amount of gifted young men on it, a lot of talent. And in order for us to do what we did, each of them had to sacrifice a part of their game for us all to do well, and so there’s a lot of humility on this team,” Father Hagan said after the title game.
This year’s tournament was certainly notable for its religious themes. Two of the schools that made the Final Four were Catholic universities. And, of course, there was Sister Jean, who became an overnight celebrity when she was revealed as a source of inspiration for the Cinderella-story Loyola Ramblers’ run to the Final Four in San Antonio.
“The Sister Jean experience was wonderful because I think it really highlights the faith and the values that we’re all striving for. It’s not just basketball, it’s a brotherhood,” Father Hagan said. “Those values have really been put on the big stage in large part by Sister Jean, which is a credit to her sisters and her order.”
As for what he’s going to do with the championship net, Father Hagan isn’t going to keep it for himself.
“I think I’m gonna share it with my nieces and nephews,” he said. “I think they’ll love it.”