College Basketball Insider

These coaches could sure use these gifts from Santa this Christmas


Bah humbug! St. Joe's Martelli could use some holiday cheer. (US Presswire)  
Bah humbug! St. Joe's Martelli could use some holiday cheer. (US Presswire)  

Santa has a big bag of gifts for children all over this world, and he'll deliver each book and toy -- hopefully, for the sake of our country, more books than toys -- late Saturday night. Some kids will get action figures. Others will get dolls. Lots will get iPods and iPads and iEverythings, but what will college basketball coaches get?

Answer: I don't know.

But I know what they need.

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Here's what five of them could sure use from Santa:

1. Phil Martelli: A public relations firm

Saint Joseph's hasn't made national headlines since the Hawks were ranked No. 1 in 2004, but Martelli's program is all over the place now, and not in a good way. This Todd O'Brien controversy has turned on Martelli, and he just looks awful for refusing to release the Saint Joseph's graduate to play at UAB. I realize there might be "another side" to the story, but if Martelli had a reason for his actions that would be accepted nationally and make him look better, don't you think we would've heard it by now? He would've at least leaked it to somebody, I'm certain. So I'm left to believe Martelli has simply dug his heals in and decided to be stubborn, and it's just not a good look for a man whose job relies on his ability to recruit prospects.

This controversy is killing Martelli's otherwise pristine reputation.

Somebody should've already stepped in.

Everybody messes up from time to time, but wise people realize it, admit it and try to move on. Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim did that as best he could earlier this year after his ill-advised attack on Bernie Fine's accusers. Martelli would be smart to do the same. He should schedule a press conference, admit this story has gotten out of control and announce he's releasing O'Brien to play at UAB. Soon as he does that, the story dies. But for now, the whole thing is a big black eye.

2. Rick Pitino: A healthy team

As my colleague Matt Norlander detailed in a recent column, Louisville has endured more notable injuries over the past 12 months than just about any other high-major program. Peyton Siva, Russ Smith, Elisha Justice and Rakeem Buckles have already missed games this season. Stephan Van Treese is out indefinitely with a left knee injury. Wayne Blackshear is out until at least January with a torn labrum. And Mike Marra is out for the year with a torn ACL.

That's seven Cardinals who have missed games this season because of injuries.

It's remarkable that Louisville is still somehow undefeated.

3. Thad Matta: A healthy Sully

Jared Sullinger is, in my opinion, the nation's best college basketball player. And I believe he'd be able to consistently show that if he could, you know, stay consistently healthy. But that's been a challenge this season. The Ohio State forward missed two games because of back spasms, then had to leave last weekend's win over South Carolina with a foot injury. Sullinger returned Tuesday and put 18 points and 11 rebounds on Lamar, but what's next?

A sprained ankle?

More back spasms?

Hopefully nothing, for Matta's sake.

Because the Buckeyes can win a national championship with Sullinger.

Without him, they cannot.

4. Josh Pastner: A big who plays like a big

Critics tend to focus on Memphis' offense that sometimes seems out of control, but offense is not the Tigers' problem. They're averaging 82 points per game, and they actually have the 17th most-efficient offense in the nation. Again, offense isn't the problem. The problem is that Pastner's bigs don't play like bigs. Truth be told, they don't even play like big guards.

Tarik Black is the Tigers' starting center.

He has 39 fouls and 41 rebounds on the season.

And no other big on the roster averages even five rebounds per game.

5. Bo Ryan: Some knowledgable fans

No program is criticized more for being consistently good than Wisconsin, and that's because Ryan's style of play bores some to sleep. Me? I don't mind it. Yes, the Badgers rank dead last among Division I schools in adjusted tempo, which means they're really deliberate on offense. But they're also really good on offense, evidence being that Wisconsin has the 11th most-efficient offense in the country. Put another way, even though Memphis averages 82 points and Wisconsin averages just 67, Wisconsin is the better offensive team. The Badgers just don't rush things as much as the Tigers.

And Wisconsin is great defensively.

The Badgers are holding opponents to an effective field goal percentage of 36.6.

That ranks No. 1 nationally.

So Wisconsin is really good offensively and great defensively.

That's not what I call boring.

That's what I prefer to call tremendous.

Gary Parrish is a senior college basketball columnist for and college basketball insider for the CBS Sports Network. The Mississippi native also hosts an award-winning radio show in Memphis. He lives in that area with his wife, two sons and two dogs.

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