OH - Saint Joseph's Coach Phil Martelli stopped to talk for a few minutes after his Hawks crushed Saint Louis in the
quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. (This is part of Bill's
daily Atlantic 10
After a tough season how have the Hawks improved from the first game?
Phil Martelli: One thing that has improved is confidence. This team was
not very confident at the beginning of the year. There were times when
the ball was being juggled and you could guys were not settled in. We
tried to play with some depth at the beginning of the year. We just donít
have that. We have seven guys, thatís all we are able to play with right
now. But this team has dramatically improved the pace in which we play
offense. We get the ball down the floor quicker. This team has been
resilient all year. We can take a hit. We were down 17-4 at Kansas. We
survived a 20-0 run by GW to get back and have a shot at the buzzer to win
the game. So they have done a lot of tough things. The biggest thing
that we changed is our physical toughness. We now get the second
rebound. We now get charges. We now get loose balls. We didnít get
those up until January the 15th.
I just think that the seniors have said, ďWeíre not going out on a low
note, weíre going to go out on a high note.Ē This program has won a lot
of games. They have won a lot of games. I think the seniors are up to 94
wins in their career now and they werenít going out. They werenít going
to let the young guys settle in. A lot of teams get to mid-January when
school starts for the second semester and say, ďthis is what we are.Ē So
our seniors just were not going to accept that this was ďwho we are.Ē
They wanted to be more than that.
BK: Would you
say you have hit your stride now?
No, we can be a lot better. We can be a lot better offensively. I think
we are stagnant at times. I still think we repeat mistakes that are
corrected. Like donít drive the ball through a crowded floor, donít stand
when we feed the post. So I still feel strongly that we can get better.
BK: How does
this yearís team compare to last yearís team?
Well last yearís team won 24 games and 21 wins in the calendar year of
í05. So this team has yet to write the book on who they are. Last year
we had a player play at an all American level. Now no one wants to
believe it because the year before we had two All-Americans in Jameer
Nelson and Delonte West. Nobody in the country meant more to his team
than Pat Carroll to our team. So this is a different team, but we have
more balance. Last year we really rode Pat Carroll. This year we have
four guys in double figures. This year we have a lot of guys who give a
little bit and that makes ďthe wholeĒ pretty good right now. But it can
year you played a tough schedule. What was your philosophy in scheduling
I think that when you take you non-conference schedule it should prepare
you for the Atlantic 10. And in the Atlantic 10 you are going to play
national level teams. GW is a national level team. Charlotte is a
national level team. Xavier, Temple are high level teams. You will have
to go on the road to tough places. So we are not afraid to go on the
road, we just want it to be fair. We just want to play home and home, if
we can get those opportunities. As we set it up there were some
opportunities you canít pass on. Gonzaga on New Years Eve, you canít pass
on. Kansas at Madison Square Gardens, you canít pass on that game. So to
have the chance to play against Villanova, Ohio State and Penn, seven of
the 11 teams that we played in the non-conference go to the NCAA
Tournament and to be six and five against that schedule speaks volumes
about this team.
BK: How good
is the A-10 this year?
This yearís A-10 is better than the best year that we have ever had and I
have been in the league now for 21 years. What has happened is that
because we donít have two divisions, you donít have a clear East and West
winner. You donít have a 14-2 East team and a 16-0 West team. But we
have teams that donít get enough credit. The bottom of the league has
played up and every game has become a challenge. Maybe you could throw
out a trip to Duquesne or a home game that you would expect to win.
Everything else is just a war just trying to get a win in the league. I
think of teams to be considered post-season teams and we have five or six
of those teams that will be post-season teams. I think we have had an
exceptional year in the Atlantic 10. We just havenít won enough 50-50
games and that has to change. That will be on the coaches and the players
BK: How have
the dynamics in the conference changed with two new teams this year?
Well, it was a new entity this year, we still donít know. I think that
one of the things we are going to have to talk about this year is who our
recruits are. That is a way that your league gets a lot of hype. I
really donít know Saint Louis recruits. I am not really that familiar
with Xavier or Daytonís recruiting and Charlotte recruits in a different
arena than we do. All of those things have to be a part of how we promote
the Atlantic 10. I think we have to discuss with the coaches and the
league how this dynamic fits together. It is funny that you are playing
in the Atlantic 10 and you change time zones to play at St. Louis. That
is awkward or maybe more accurately, it is unusual. I think for the first
year we have had a national level team in GW and we have had remarkable
competitions in almost every game.
BK: When you
look at the teams in the Atlantic 10 it looks like you have some haves and
have nots. For instance Dayton and Xavier play in front of over 10,000
fans each night and some teams play in front of 2000 fans on a good
night. Am I right in observing big discrepancies between some of the
teams in the A-10?
Well certainly, just look at arenas we play in. How can you play in a
more beautiful place than the Cintas Center and in Saint Joeís you play in
BK: But you
guys want to play there, right?
Yeah, but I am just saying that is part of it. Offices are part of it.
Team travel shouldnít be an issue. People should be able to travel on an
even plain. I just think if you donít know what everyone else in the
league is doing and you canít live to those standards than you really have
to examine it. I am talking about administrators, they have to examine
it. They need to say, ďWhat separates us from them,Ē and itís not
players, itís not coaching. It is not arenas. It is surroundings. You
surround your program like it is a member of a top five or six league in
America and thatís the way itís got to be. Put your jacket on! (he yells
to Rob Ferguson as he leaves). Put you jacket on, now!
BK: You look
around the A-10 as a veteran coach, what is the toughest arena to play in?
PM: Well it really depends on how good the team is at the moment. Like
GW is a really difficult place, but the fact is that they are a really
good team. I think Olean (St. Bonaventure) is a very, very difficult
place to play. They get tremendous crowd support even though the team has
been a little down. I think it is easier to say where there is not
atmosphere rather that what the toughest atmosphere is.
BK: Well I
like to ask in a positive way. Fans will be reading this tomorrow in
Cincinnati and since you are a pretty hip and well-traveled coach, where
is the best place to get some good food in the Queen City?
(he laughs) Montgomery Inn is the only good place that we have ever been
to. We stay close to the hotel since this is a business trip. So we
stay close and keep the players off their feet. We had a great meal last
year at the Montgomery Inn. If we are fortunate enough to get to
Saturday night, then that is where you might find us after the game on
question, what does a game day look like at the tournament?
PM: On the day of the game we are really interested in resting our
players. Last year I think I made a mistake in the championship game, we
were tired because we were on the bus and then we came here for a shoot
around. We donít have to do that this time. We have been here, we know
what the arena is like. We do a walk-through and a film study in the
morning and then we just make it quiet. We tell them to go to their
rooms, get off their feet, lie down and get rested. We always arrive an
hour an a half before the game. So I am ready. I will study into the
night tonight for our game tomorrow and that is it. I donít over analyze.
I know what is coming. I have a regular routine on game day. I donít eat
because I am a little bit nervous. I will write my notes up. I will
write up my keys to the game. I get a work out in. I just want it to be
calm and quiet.
coach and good luck tomorrow.