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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim, Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

Phil Martelli fired after 24 years of coaching

Martelli was made aware of the decision Monday afternoon. PHOTO: MITCHELL SHIELDS ’22/THE HAWK

After 24 seasons and more than three decades with the Hawks, St. Joe’s announced that Phil Martelli is out as men’s basketball head coach.

Director of Athletics Jill Bodensteiner, J.D., informed Martelli he was being let go after he attended a breakfast for Coaches vs. Cancer on March 18. Bodensteiner and University President Mark C. Reed were discussing the decision up until the evening of March 17.

“This is not a message board decision. This is not the Board of Trustees telling us what to do,” Bodensteiner said in her press conference. “There was a constant evaluation. What I viewed, what I saw, I saw a lot of great things. I saw things that obviously I thought warranted a change.”

Before the decision was made public, Martelli was given the opportunity to address the basketball team and break the news to them himself, according to Bodensteiner.

“I said ‘Phil, you meet with them. It is your story to tell. I don’t want to be in there. I don’t need to be in there. I trust you. Say what you’ve got to say with them. That is your time with the team,’” Bodensteiner said. “He had that time with the team, and I was not a part of it.”

Martelli began his career at St. Joe’s in 1985 as a part-time assistant under then Head Coach Jim Boyle. After a year, Martelli was promoted to a full-time assistant coach. Martelli worked under Boyle and Coach John Griffin for the next nine years before being handed the reigns in 1995.

For the next 24 years, Martelli would helm the St. Joe’s basketball program. According to Matt Gifford ’06, the writer behind the HawkHillHardwood Twitter page, that longevity speaks for itself.

“The fact that it has been that long makes today that much harder for so many people,” Gifford said. “Regardless of coaching opinions, the fact that for 24 years he has been the most visible face of the university, is a testament.”

Over the course of almost a quarter century, Martelli became synonymous with St. Joe’s, said Bob Hughes ’03, a former St. Joe’s men’s basketball manager. Hughes was stunned when he heard the news that Martelli would no longer be patrolling the sidelines of Hagan Arena.

“I was shocked and devastated when I first heard the news,” Hughes said. “I just can’t imagine a world where Phil Martelli is not the head men’s basketball coach at St. Joe’s. To me he is the embodiment of ‘the hawk will never die.’ I can’t wrap my head around the fact that he is no longer the coach.”

During Martelli’s tenure as head coach, the Hawks won three Atlantic 10 Tournaments and made the Elite 8. Martelli also won the AP Coach of the Year in 2004. With 444 career wins, he became the coach with the most wins in St. Joe’s history.

The morning, St. Joe’s students and faculty received an email from Bodensteiner announcing a change in the coaching leadership and her plan to find a new head coach.

Bodensteiner said in her press conference that a lack of improvement over the course of the season was one of the reasons for the change.

“It is, at the end of the day, an evaluation of if we are in the right place to get this trajectory moving up,” Bodensteiner said. “Are we maximizing the potential of our student athletes as individuals and collectively? Was there one moment? There wasn’t. It was a tough season.”

Bodensteiner’s attention will now turn toward finding a new head coach but only after the response on campus has settled, she said.

“The process will begin as soon as I am sure everyone is settled [and] emotionally stable here,” Bodensteiner said. “Then, I will go after a really, really good coach. A lot of them will be coaching, hopefully, deeply into the NCAA tournament. So, my timing will be impacted based on how those folks do.”

On Hawk Hill, timing of the announcement fell on the university’s Day of Giving and the feast of Saint Joseph.

“I’m sorry. I am doing what is best for Coach Martelli and what is best for the university as far as timing,” Bodensteiner said. “Integrity is my word, and once I reach my decision, I don’t feel like a good human being sitting on that decision. My integrity, every piece of that, says you need to tell him what you think.”

Ryan Mulligan ’21, Nick Karpinski ’21 and Ana Faguy ’19 contributed to this article.

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  • P

    Peter BerardiMar 23, 2019 at 10:47 am

    Coach Martelli’s time had come. At a school with as a rich a basketball tradition as St. Joe’s has enjoyed, it has been difficult to watch this teams performance over the past several years. None of us are guaranteed a position in life and performance matters. Coach Martelli was not getting the job done. He was offered an opportunity to step down which he chose not to do and therefore forced the schools hand. I applaud Ms. Bodensteiner’s resolve in making a tough decision.

    Having said that, it remains a sad commentary on our times that the performance of a university’s athletic teams are an important factor in not just athletic programs fund raising and student-athlete recruitment, but in overall fund raising and student recruitment as well. Because the basketball program is the centerpiece of the athletic program, its success is pivotal to the financial health of St. Joes.

  • L

    Linda CarterMar 21, 2019 at 6:55 pm

    My heart goes out to Coach Phil Martelli. He is such an incredible Human-Being. All the best to him and his family. I know he will find another nest to groom his student athletes; and they will be better just to be in his presence. If everyone had the grace and character of Coach Phil this world would be a better place. I thank him for the many memories on Hawk Hill and Hawk Talk… inside his heart I know The Hawk Will NEVER Die!
    Linda Carter