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Saint Joe's coach Phil Martelli's offseason of tragedy and difficulty

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer

Phil Martelli's first two months of offseason have been mired in personal tragedy. (USATSI)
Phil Martelli's first two months of offseason have been mired in personal tragedy. (USATSI)

On a personal level, it could be said Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli has never endured an offseason like this one.

Martelli did a sit-down recently with the Philadelphia Inquirer to discuss his life, his losses and what's next for him -- and his program. For those who might be unaware of what Martelli's faced in the past two months:

"I feel like I've been invited by God to play cards, but he's only given me three cards," Martelli said, sitting in his office on Hawk Hill.
In a span of several weeks just after the Hawks lost in the first round of the NIT, the 58-year-old coach lost his sister, unexpectedly. He found out his sister-in-law, suffering from cancer, needed to go into hospice. She has since died. Martelli's mother fell and broke her hip.
This part you probably heard about: His son resigned as an assistant coach at Rutgers, part of the Mike Rice scandal, after a practice tape had reportedly shown Jimmy Martelli shoving a player.

Phil Martelli's terms of the interview with the Inquirer stated he wouldn't get into details about his son's firing from Rutgers. That goes for former Rutgers coach Mike Rice, too. Martelli, one of the most opinionated, outspoken and media-embracing coaches in the game said of the Rice/Rutgers situation, "I can't. I'm not comfortable saying anything."

He did speak on love for his son and addressed his situation in broad terms.

His sister died from a failed heart, pretty much out of nowhere. His sister-in-law: pancreatic cancer. Martelli separates the fates and doings of his program from the rest of the sadness and drama that's encompassed his life since the season ended. Saint Joe's was an 18-14, NIT tournament team last season after being chosen by league coaches in October to win the Atlantic 10.

It was a rough year, and in general over the past half-decade, Saint Joe's has underperformed in the eyes of those who follow the program and the Atlantic 10. Martelli is only increasing his workload; he was named president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches for the upcoming year (missing his induction ceremony at the Final Four because he was attending his sister's funeral).

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