PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Saint Joseph’s University fired men’s basketball head coach Phil Martelli after 24 seasons, the school announced Tuesday. Jill Bodensteiner, the new athletic director at St. Joe’s, says while the decision to fire Martelli was a very difficult one, she has to maximize the potential of the student-athletes on and off the court.
She believes they were maximizing the potential off the court, but there is room to grow on the court.
“I have to look myself in the mirror and make sure I’m doing everything possible to put our student-athletes in the best possible situation to succeed and it was on that basis that I made the decision [to fire Martelli],” Bodensteiner said.
Bodensteiner, with the support of St. Joe’s University President Mark Reed, ultimately made the decision to fire Martelli.
“It [was] my decision and I own it,” Bodensteiner said. “And I know it’s an unpopular one among some and I own that, but it was my decision to make the change in our coaching leadership.”
Some students are not surprised by Martelli’s departure. Just last month, junior Alex Karpinski wrote an opinion piece in the school’s newspaper headlined: “Time For Martelli To Move On.”
“Mediocrity is unacceptable for a program of this nature,” Karpinski said. “I came to this school three years ago expecting a very high level product from this basketball team and I have not got that since I came here.”
Martelli, who was head coach since 1995, was named the National Coach of the Year in 2004 after the team’s undefeated regular season and appearance in the NCAA Tournament’s Elite Eight. And since 1993, he has led the Philadelphia Coaches vs Cancer program as co-chair, helping to raise over $14 million.
“He’s really loved on this campus and really respected,” a student said.
The Hawks reached the second round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament but had three straight losing seasons since.
“When things aren’t working out I think you have to make a change,” junior Jessica Safi added. “I think we needed a culture change, a culture shift, and I think we’re going to get that with the new coach.”
Bodensteiner wants everyone to know there was not a “thing” or situation that made her decide to fire Martelli.
“There is absolutely nothing about this that you’re going to read in the paper and the shoe’s going to drop, that’s not how Phil operated this program and I have absolutely no reason to believe that there’s any lack of integrity,” Bodensteiner said.
There also wasn’t a moment on the court that determined her decision to fire him. She says it was a constant evaluation of the team and whether or not they were in the right position to improve as a program.
In his time as head coach, Martelli compiled a record of 444-328 and won six regular-season Atlantic 10 conference titles along with three conference tournament championships.
While the university will immediately begin its search for a new head coach, Bodensteiner says the main concern at this time is the well-being of the men’s basketball team and the staff members who support them.
“I want to make sure everybody here is in the best possible emotional place they can be before I start thinking about our next head coach,” Bodensteiner added.