If you have ever listen to one of our podcasts, and God Bless Ya if you have, you might have picked up on my borderline obsession with the varied expectations of each fanbase in the Atlantic Ten. In other words, what would it take for programs like Duquesne, Fordham, VCU, et al., to part ways with their head coach. For instance, at the University of RIchmond it’s clear that Chris Mooney has worn out his welcome — the Spiders trip to the Sweet Sixteen was almost a decade ago and UR’s momentum seems completely stalled. The idea that Fordham would ever fire its coach without finding multiple bodies in his basement is baffling, yet we’ve since the Rams part ways with three coaches over the past fifteen seasons.
Phil Martelli always seemed completely immune to such conversations. In his 24 years at St. Joe’s, Martelli has won with NBA-talent and underwhelming rosters, players both foreign and domestic, and has established himself as one of the most highly-regarded coaches in the nation. It seemed that when Martelli eventually retired it would be strictly on his terms. However, things can change quickly, and the rumblings over Martelli’s future at SJU have grown over the past two seasons.
The Hawks won the Atlantic Ten championship and advanced to the NCAA second round in 2016. The two seasons have trended downward, a 11-20 season in 2017 and a 16-16 record in 2018. With St. Joe’s struggling again this year, the #FirePhil movement has gained traction. Again, I personally have no idea what the average SJU fan’s expectations are — a tournament appearance every few years? A competitive mid-major programs that is scandal free? I have no clue.
What I do know is this, the days of coaches doing 25 years at one programs is slowly coming to an end. Patient fanbases don’t exist anymore (and yes, this is likely a byproduct of college coaching salaries rising to unprecedented levels). Martelli has been beset by a significant string of injuries the past two seasons, and that certainly has had an effect on the Hawks’ performances over the past two years. Regardless, I don’t think Martelli is going anywhere. If St. Joseph’s tried to force Martelli into early retirement after this season it would probably look something like this:
Unfortunately for Martelli, the Hawks have been hit by the injury bug yet again. Lamarr Kimble, a talented player that has probably been hurt more than any other player in D1 history, is once again sidelined with a broken bone. Pierfrancesco Oliva, one of St. Joe’s main reserves, is out for the season after fucking up his knee beyond repair against Duquesne. Starting forward Anthony Longpré is in the concussion protocol and will miss the game against your Flyers. As a result of all this carnage, the Hawks are down to just seven scholarship players. Dayton will finally match up against a team with less depth, an unfathomable prospect when the season started.
So who’s left? Charlie Brown, who missed all of last season with a wrist injury, is back and living up to his potential. Brown leads the Atlantic Ten in scoring (20.1 ppg) and sports a two-tone hairstyle that really catches your eye. Brown has inherited the DeAndre’ Bembry role, the Hawks rely on the redshirt sophomore to keep them in games by gettin’ buckets. Brown sports a 27.4% possession rate which, I was surprised to see, only put him in fifth place in the conference. The top four will not surprise you. Is Charlie Brown the A10’s best NBA prospect? Probably, I don’t know. I’ll ask the guys in the mailroom. The point is this — Charlie Brown is going to get plenty of shots up against Dayton.
Chris Clover and Jared Bynum form Martelli’s backcourt. Clover, finally a senior, hasn’t seemed to improve at all. He is still a shooting liability and doesn’t seem to do anything on the floor at an above-average level. That being said, he has been stepping up as of late. Clover had 18 points in SJU’s upset over Davidson and put up 14 in a loss to Penn last Saturday. Bynum has had a very impressive freshman campaign, putting up a very impressive statline this season (12/4/4). His play has been one of the few things Hawk fans can hang their hats on this year.
Although underseized, Bynum has the type of quickness that challenges defenses and opens up the game for his teammates. Taylor Funk had a great freshman year and has dipped a little during his sophomore season. Although he is only shooting 32% from three, at 6’9″ he still has the ability to stifle defenses with his ability to step outside and knock down shots (he would be my pick to have a “breakout” game against Dayton). Funk still crashes the boards with a purpose, you have to at least give him that.
This is an important game for Dayton, especially considering the Flyers dropped a home tilt against George Mason last week. St. Joe’s plays a quick pace offensively, something I think could work in Dayton’s favor Wednesday night. My fear is that Martelli will employ a zone defense and force UD to knock down shots all night. With Longpre and Oliva out, St. Joe’s will be extremely undersized coming into the game, easy buckets for the Flyers would seem to be on the table. Bottom line, Martelli doesn’t have enough horses to go forty minutes with UD. Flyers 80, Hawks 72.
Tom Blackburn is a proud U. o' D. alum. He loses faith in humanity one day at a time, but not in you, you seem like you are all kinds of alright. Charter member of the T-Man fanclub.