Phil Martelli has been the head coach at Saint Joseph’s since 1995. Generally when a coach has been with a program for that long of a time, their exit comes on their own terms. But on Tuesday, new SJU Director of Athletics Jill Bodensteiner announced that the program was firing Martelli, who has 444 victories in 24 seasons at the helm.
The high-point of Martelli’s tenure was definitely the 2003-04 season, when his Hawks, which a trio of future NBA players led by consensus NPOY Jameer Nelson, finished the regular season undefeated and reached the Elite Eight (30-2 overall). Martelli was given every major COY award that season and the Hawks garnered the AP #1 ranking for the first (and still only) time in program history.
Today’s news represents a changing of the guard at Saint Joseph’s, after long-time AD Don DiJulia retired last year and was replaced by Bodensteiner, who will now bring in her own candidate in attempt to usher in a new era of Hawks basketball.
“The decision was not an easy one, but I believe it is the right one,” Bodensteiner said in statement. “Coach Phil Martelli stands out among his peers in college basketball not only for his long tenure and the many accolades that he and his team have achieved, but also for his engagement with the community and his service as a wonderful ambassador for SJU.”
The announcement also furthers the shift of the Philly Big 5 basketball landscape: long-time head coach Fran Dunphy is retiring this year after spending the last 30 seasons coaching at Penn (1989-2006) and Temple (2006-19) and La Salle made their own change last year, parting ways with head coach John Giannini after 14 years in favor of Villanova assistant Ashley Howard. Nova’s Jay Wright doesn’t appear to be going anywhere, winning two national titles in the last four years, but college and NBA teams alike continue to gauge his interest whenever a high-profile job opens up.
So where does Bodensteiner go from here? Hard to imagine she makes this move without having some candidates in mind. One option that certainly makes sense is former Drexel and UMass head coach Bruiser Flint, a Philly-native and SJU grad who is currently on Archie Miller‘s staff at Indiana. Other guys with Philly ties include Hartford head coach John Gallagher (played at SJU, coached at Penn, La Salle and Lafayette), Colgate head coach Matt Langel (played/coached at Penn, coached at Temple) and Robert Morris head coach Andrew Toole (played at Penn, also coached at Lafayette).
h/t to Mike Lawrie/Getty Images for photo