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Championship Week | Message Board  | Basketball Arenas

By Bill Kintner

March 10th, 2006

 

Atlantic 10 Tournament: Interview w/ Phil Martelli

 

Cincinnati, 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 Championship coverage.)

 

Bill Kintner: 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

 

BK: What changed?

 

          PM: 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?

 

          PM: 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?

 

          PM: 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 be better.

 

BK:  This year you played a tough schedule.  What was your philosophy in scheduling this year?

 

          PM: 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?

 

          PM: 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 next year.

 

BK: How have the dynamics in the conference changed with two new teams this year?

 

          PM: 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?

 

          PM: 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 a gym.

 

BK: But you guys want to play there, right?

 

          PM: 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?

 

          PM: (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 Saturday night

 

BK: Last 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.

 

BK: Thanks coach and good luck tomorrow.

 

          PM: Thank you.           

 

 

 

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