VILLANOVA, Pa. (AP) — Jack Kraft, the Villanova basketball coach who guided the Wildcats to the 1971 NCAA title game and coached such players as Wali Jones, Bill Melchionni and Howard Porter, has died. He was 93.
He died Thursday in New Jersey, the school said in a statement Friday.
Kraft coached the Wildcats for a dozen seasons and finished with 238 victories and a .715 winning percentage. His teams went to the postseason in 11 of his 12 years.
“Coach Kraft was a winner, a gentleman and an outstanding coach,” coach Jay Wright said. “His players loved and respected him. They stayed in touch with him until his final days.”
In addition to Jones, Melchionni and Porter, Kraft coached such standouts as Jim Washington, Johnny Jones, Fran O’Hanlon, Chris Ford, Hank Siemontkowski and Tom Ingelsby.
In 1971, a 23-6 record brought the team to the Final Four for the first time since 1939. The Wildcats lost 68-62 in the final to a UCLA team coached by John Wooden.
Porter was honored as the tournament’s outstanding player, but that was later nullified and Villanova was disqualified. Porter was deemed ineligible for professional basketball connections. In 2007, Porter died at 58 after he was found severely beaten in an alley.
Kraft came to Villanova in 1961 from nearby Malvern Prep, succeeding Al Severance. His first team finished with a 21-7 record and made it to the NCAA playoffs, the first of six tournament appearances during his stay.
Kraft, who later coached at the University of Rhode Island, was honored at the Pavilion in 2011, 50 years after his first win, before many former players.
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