Jack Kraft, who served 12 years as Villanova head coach, leading the Wildcats to the 1971 NCAA National Championship game, died last Thursday at an assisted living facility in Cape May Court House, New Jersey. He was 93.
University president Rev. Peter M. Donohue made a statement on Kraft's death, saying "The Villanova community mourns the loss of Jack Kraft. His leadership style inspired great play and nurtured the development of skills and interests off the court that contributed to successful and rewarding lives. This inspired great loyalty and love among those he coached, and created a rich legacy that will endure at Villanova."
"Coach Kraft was a winner, a gentleman and an outstanding coach," said Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "His players loved and respected him. They stayed in touch with him until his final days. Everyone in the Villanova family will miss Coach Kraft. He is a beloved member of the Villanova community."
Kraft began his career at Villanova in 1961 as the successor to Al Severance, leading the Wildcats to a 21-7 record and a NCAA tournament bid in his first season - one of six trips to the Big Dance during his tenure. Kraft also guided Villanova to five NIT bids, back when there was more prestige for the No. 2 postseason tournament. Kraft would only miss the postseason once during his time in Philly - his final season.
His best year at Villanova came in 1971, when the 23-6 Wildcats went on an improbable run to the NCAA title game, led by the late All-American Howard Porter and Chris Ford. Nova snuck away with a 92-89 double overtime win over Western Kentucky to send them to the national title game against UCLA in the Houston Astrodome, where they fell 68-62. Their victories were later vacated when it was revealed that Porter, the tournament's most outstanding player, had already signed a contract with the Pittsburgh Condors of the ABA.
Kraft went 238-95 at Villanova, the highest winning percentage of any Wildcat coach (.715). He left Nova to coach Rhode Island in 1973, where he went 103-88 in seven-plus seasons with the Rams.
For those in the area interested in attending, a Funeral Mass for Kent will be held on Thursday, Sept. 4, at 11 a.m. at Saint Brendan the Navigator Parish: Maris Stella Church, 5012 Dune Drive, Avalon, N.J. A viewing will be held from 9:30-11 a.m. at the church.