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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Martelli adjusts to life in Michigan without family

This+season+will+be+the+first+since+1985+without+Martelli+on+the+sideline.%0APHOTO+COURTESY+OF%3A+Elizabeth+Jefferies
This season will be the first since 1985 without Martelli on the sideline. PHOTO COURTESY OF: Elizabeth Jefferies

Phil Martelli is living alone for the first time in his life.

Martelli’s new condo is a 15 minute drive from the Crisler Center, the site of the basketball arena at the University of Michigan, where Martelli is the assistant coach for the men’s basketball team.

In March 2019, Martelli was fired from his position as head coach for the St. Joe’s men’s basketball team, a position he held for 24 years. Three months later, on June 3, Martelli accepted the position at Michigan.

“It would appear from the outside that coach landed on his feet, he’s okay,’” Martelli said. “While I have a great opportunity with great people, I’m away from my family. There are personal challenges, and when I’m alone, those things go through me. I’ve talked to a lot of people, including spiritual people, who said it’s going to take a while. It’s going to take a long while.”

When Martelli moved to Michigan, his wife of 43 years, Judy, stayed behind in the couple’s home in Media, Pennsylvania.

“It wouldn’t be fair to take her world and turn it upside down,” Martelli said.

When he’s alone, Martelli said questions run through his head: “Am I being selfish?” or, “Am I just thinking about myself?” Martelli has mulled over these questions for months now. He doesn’t know the answers.

What Martelli does know is that he misses life in Philadelphia, and all that came with it. While he keeps his mind busy and 100% focused on basketball while at work, when he opens the door to an empty condo every night, he just can’t shake his emotions.

“We had a certain way of life,” Martelli said. “It wasn’t just me. It was my family’s way of life. It was built around doing things in Philadelphia above and beyond basketball.”

Martelli copes by talking daily to family and friends, including newly-appointed Delaware Valley University Director of Athletics David Duda, Martelli’s friend and former right-hand man and assistant coach at St. Joe’s. They talk daily about each other’s highs, lows, struggles and anything in between.

Duda said he can’t help but notice the difficulties that Martelli is going through, being so far from home.

“I think you can clearly hear the struggle in his voice from being away from his family,” Duda said.

Elizabeth Jefferies ’09, Martelli’s daughter and youngest child, said her father works to keep his spirits up for his family.

“He would never let any of us hear in his voice or see him being down,” Jefferies said.

But Jefferies said she is aware of the difficulty of her father’s transition.

“I pain for him because I do think he’s lonely,” Jefferies said. “He will come back to the fact that this is all great and wonderful, but at 65 years of age, he is away from his family.”

Phil Martelli Jr. ’03, the Martelli’s second-oldest son who is assistant men’s basketball coach at Bryant University, said technology has been critical in maintaining consistent communication with his father.

“It’s certainly going to be an adjustment period, [but] in this day in age, through cell phones and Facetime, we can all stay connected,” Martelli Jr. said. “That’s the way we go about it.”

Jefferies said her three kids miss their grandfather terribly, but video chats help.

“He calls all the time,” Jefferies said. “We probably communicate now more than before because you’re trying to fill that void.”

That void has certainly been swirling through Martelli’s mind over the past few months as he thinks back to a familiar way of life in Philadelphia, the daily interactions he had and what he would have done differently.

“Sometimes there’s regret because you think about the days that you wasted, days that you let get away,” Martelli said. “That’s not going to be the case moving forward. I want to not just reciprocate the love that my family is giving me, but I want to go over the top with the love that they’ve been giving me. That’s what they’ll get as we go through this together.”

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