The Big Five is going to look an awful lot different next season.
In a surprising move, Phil Martelli, an institution at St. Joseph’s for the past 24 seasons, was fired on Tuesday morning. This move comes as Fran Dunphy, who has spent the past 30 years coaching at Penn and Temple, ends his time with the Owls as soon as his tournament run comes to an end.
The school making a move on Martelli is understandable, if somewhat cold-hearted and unfair. Martelli has been with St. Joe’s since 1995 and, in 2004, he led the program to a No. 1 rankings during the season, a 27-0 record and the Elite 8 behind Jameer Nelson and Delonte West.
The last three years have not been great. After getting to the second round of the tournament in 2016, St. Joe’s has gone 41-55 the last three seasons with a 20-34 record in the Atlantic 10. The program has been ravaged by injuries during that stretch, but it’s no secret that this year’s group massively underperformed.
Maybe it was time to move on, but firing a coach that had been with the program for 24 years at the same time as Dunphy is finishing up a season on a retirement tour seems unfair. It’s also worth noting that Martelli’s father, “Pops” Martelli, a mainstay at St. Joe’s games, died in February. This came less than a year after Phil’s mother passed away.