Skip to content

Phil Martelli coping with more than just basketball challenges

May 26, 2013, 11:21 AM EDT

Phil Martelli AP

Losing at home in the first round of the NIT and failing to meet the high expectations set out for a team at the beginning of a season would be tough for any coach to cope with during the offseason. Make no mistake about it, St. Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli isn’t happy about his team’s conclusion to a very up-and-down season. He’s also not thrilled with the proposition of replacing forward C.J. Aiken who will not be returning for his senior season after declaring for the NBA Draft. But, in the grand scheme of things, these basketball related issues are the least of his worries.

In a story by Mike Jensen of Philly.com, Martelli has suffered through the passing of his sister–unexpectedly, due to heart failure–and his sister-in-law who lost her battle with cancer, and dealt with his elderly mother’s broken hip after falling all within the past two months.

Not to mention, the entire college basketball community has been made aware of his son Jimmy’s resignation as an assistant coach at Rutgers following the Mike Rice scandal.

It is well-documented that being a college basketball coach is a pressure-filled occupation–imagine your job depending upon the performance of 18-22 year old kids–so to compound those pressures with difficulty at home has taken its toll on Martelli.

The night of St. Joseph’s home loss to St. John’s in the NIT was when Martelli’s sister was dealing with heart complications. To give you an idea of just how sudden her death was, Martelli remarked: “my sister was on the phone with my secretary, asking if I’d leave tickets for my nephew.”

When he received the news of his sister’s passing, he said: “Basically, for no other description, her heart stopped beating. If the normal heart works at 75 percent capacity, my sister’s heart was working at 5 percent. Systems started to fail. It wasn’t a heart attack, it wasn’t a stroke. She was 53, with a 9-year-old.”

The lone bright spot over these past few months is that, despite his mother’s tumble and subsequent broken hip, she is recovering very well: “[She is the] shining light in this whole thing. She’s doing great. She’s encouraged by her therapy. She’s getting around. She’s getting out. I wouldn’t have bet on that.”

Being the head coach at St. Joseph’s for nearly 20 years, the performance of his program constantly weighs on his mind. The fact that the Hawks haven’t won an NCAA Tournament game since their run to the Elite Eight in 2004, and haven’t made an appearance in the Big Dance since 2008 doesn’t make this time any easier for him. Understandably so, many of the St. Joseph’s faithful are wondering whether Martelli’s time is up on Hawk Hill, to which he responded with: “We’ve got to get better. I don’t begrudge anyone their opinion. Here’s my only thing – the greatest angst over winning or losing a game is felt by myself and my players and my staff.”

Martelli, who is regarded as one of the true gentleman to coach in college basketball, is ostensibly welcoming the challenge of bringing St. Joseph’s back to an NCAA Tournament as it acts as a nice distraction from everything that has transpired off the basketball court. St. Joseph’s figures to be somewhere in the middle of a competitive Atlantic 10 conference next season after losing Aiken and graduating Carl Jones.

You can find Kevin on twitter @KLDoyle11

Latest Posts
  1. Four-star 2016 center Schnider Herard announces final five schools

    Aug 28, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT

    Nike Elite Youth Basketball League Getty Images

    Herard has scheduled official visits to three of the five remaining schools on his list.

  2. Former Missouri wing headed to San Diego State

    Aug 27, 2015, 9:45 PM EDT

    Riley LaChance, Montaque Gill-Caesar AP

    The 6-foot-6 Canadian averaged 9.1 points and 3.0 rebounds per game last season.

  3. Report: 2016 point guard Myles Powell trims list to five

    Aug 27, 2015, 9:27 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour/Getty Images Kelly Kline/Under Armour/Getty Images

    Georgetown, Georgia Tech and Saint Joseph’s failed to make the cut for the New Jersey native.

  4. Big Ten releases full conference schedule

    Aug 27, 2015, 7:43 PM EDT

    (AP) AP

    Early favorite Maryland and reigning champion Wisconsin both open league play at home.

  5. Former Arkansas forward joins Middle Tennessee State program

    Aug 27, 2015, 4:44 PM EDT

    (Getty Images) Getty Images

    Williams’ arraignment on first degree suspicion of forgery charges was postponed until September 2.

  6. New mixtape for 2016’s biggest riser, Wenyen Gabriel (VIDEO)

    Aug 27, 2015, 3:35 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/adidas Kelly Kline/adidas

    Gabriel is a five-star prospect with offers from Kentucky and Duke.

  7. Throwback Thursday: When we realized Russell Westbrook was a freak (VIDEO)

    Aug 27, 2015, 12:15 PM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Westbrook wasn’t a top 25 prospect in high school. He was a top three player in the NBA last year.

  8. Blue Ribbon announces their preseason all-american team

    Aug 27, 2015, 10:50 AM EDT

    Blue Ribbon

    It’s the first preseason all-american team that we’ve seen this summer.

  9. Cody Zeller, Indiana president speak out against recent athlete legal issues

    Aug 27, 2015, 9:41 AM EDT

    Getty Images Getty Images

    Zeller handed out a warning. Michael McRobbie was a bit more upset.

  10. Five-star 2016 combo guard cuts list to four

    Aug 26, 2015, 10:38 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/adidas Kelly Kline/adidas

    Frank Jackson will take an official visit to one of the four schools this weekend.

  11. Highlights of Michigan State’s Italy trip-opening win over Basket Fiorentina

    Aug 26, 2015, 9:31 PM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    Bryn Forbes scored 18 points to lead a balanced scoring attack for the Spartans.

  12. Indiana president none too pleased with recent legal issues involving student-athletes

    Aug 26, 2015, 7:35 PM EDT

    Michael McRobbie AP

    Michael McRobbie’s address came two days after Emmitt Holt and Thomas Bryant were cited for illegal possession of alcohol.

  13. Seton Hall to give scholarship basketball players $2,600 towards cost of attendance

    Aug 26, 2015, 5:41 PM EDT

    Kevin Willard AP

    Seton Hall AD said his coaches haven’t had to deal with negative recruiting re: cost of attendance stipends, but he’s ready to act if so.

  14. Xavier, Mount St. Joseph to launch the ‘Lauren Hill Tip-Off Classic’

    Aug 26, 2015, 3:23 PM EDT

    AP AP

    Lauren Hill raised more than $1.8 million for pediatric cancer research before she passed away.

  15. LSU highlights from Australia trip (VIDEO)

    Aug 26, 2015, 12:06 PM EDT

    Kelly Kline/Under Armour Kelly Kline/Under Armour

    Get a look at potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons.

  16. Richard Pitino gets contract extension, comments on Norwood Teague

    Aug 26, 2015, 11:45 AM EDT

    AP Photo AP

    He’s still the second-highest paid Pitino in the coaching world.

  17. Times, networks announced for SEC/Big 12 Challenge

    Aug 26, 2015, 10:51 AM EDT

    Reuters Reuters

    A battle between Kentucky and Kansas headlines this event.

  18. 10 year old Ohio State fan worried heart surgery would make him love Michigan

    Aug 26, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    2ljfrxdhjejmccpdr5ccycxi2

    There’s really nothing more important than that for a 10-year old boy.