Seeking Big 10 and National Championships, Evans Hires Willard to Lead Terps

(Camden, New Jersey) Damon Evans is the Barry P. Gossett Director of Athletics for the University of Maryland. Earlier this week, he turned the page on the Mark Turgeon era. Until the day he unexpectedly resigned after just 8 games, Turgeon’s record was good… 226-116 (.661) overall and 105-79 (.571) in conference. Under Turgeon, the Terps made 6 post-season appearances (5 NCAAs and 1 NIT) in 10 seasons. Again… this was good. For most programs, those are strong results.

But for Damon Evans they weren’t good enough.

He wants to take the Maryland Men’s Basketball Program in a different direction.

Damon Evans, Barry P. Gossett Director of Athletics for the University of Maryland

After 8 years in the Big 10, Evans is convinced that Maryland can make the DMV the focal point of Big 10 Basketball while pursuing another National Championship. While undertaking these ambitious efforts, Evans and the Terps will be fully supported by prominent Maryland alum Kevin Plank, founder/executive chairman and Under Armour, based in Baltimore, Maryland. Evans has also committed to breaking the ground on the $40+ million dollar Barry P. Gossett Basketball Performance Center in January.

Both Evans and his newly hired Head Coach, Kevin Willard, have made it clear that they intend to build a fence around the DMV in the pursuit of a National Championship caliber Men’s Basketball program.

Evans and Kevin Willard, Maryland Head Coach

This recruiting strategy makes a whole lotta sense.

As illustrated in Showtime documentary Basketball County: In The Water, since 2000, Prince George’s County has spawned more than 25 NBA players, more than a dozen WNBA players, and countless others that have impacted high major basketball programs across the country. Some of the most prominent and productive players in the NBA were raised in the D.C., Maryland, and Virginia area. Evans and Willard have committed to concentrating recruitment efforts in the DMV. NBA Guys like Carmelo Anthony, Victor Oladipo, Rudy Gay, and of course Kevin Durant, hail from the DMV. So does Michigan’s Hunter Dickinson and Terrance Williams II as well as Duke’s Trevor Keels and Jeremy Roach.

Maryland is determined to keep these kind of elite DMV players home.

Dr. Darryll J. Pines, Maryland President (l), Kevin Willard (c) and Damon Evans (r)

So, exactly how will Willard make inroads in the DMV? After all, he’s a Long Island native who played at Western Kentucky and Pittsburgh. He started his coaching career with the Boston Celtics under Rick Pitino. He followed Pitino to Louisville, where he spent six seasons as an assistant coach before taking the head-coaching job at Iona. In 15 seasons as a head coach at Iona and Seton Hall, Willard has been to five NCAA tournaments and won a share of the Big East regular-season title in 2020.

A solid resume, but very little DMV focus… at first glance, it seems a little disconnected from the stated strategy of local recruiting dominance. What gives?

Well… it seems that Evans and Willard have decided to allocate considerable human resources to this task. Recently fired Rhode Island Head Coach David Cox will be focused intently on the DMV while serving as a Maryland Assistant. Cox will be expected to used his deep connections in his hometown Washington, D.C., and the surrounding Mid-Atlantic region. In addition to Cox, Tony Skinn, a Takoma Park, Maryland product native deep DMV ties and Big Ten and Big East coaching experience is on the staff. These guys know their way around… These guys have deep DMV AAU/grassroots relationships… Sounds like a plan.

Willard and his sons with Kevin Plank (r)

It should be noted that Under Armour remains as firmly committed as ever to the University of Maryland and the Terp basketball program. Founder and Executive Chairman, Kevin Plank made it plainly clear that Under Armour continues to view the University of Maryland as an effective steward of the brand. Plank warmly welcomed Willard and committed to working closely together to help drive innovation and provide Maryland Basketball student-athletes with a competitive edge.
Damon Evans emphasized that Under Armour and Kevin Plank remain valued partners in Maryland’s quest to conquer college basketball from a based firmly rooted in the DMV. In every conceivable way, Under Armour remains a huge part of the Maryland Athletics family.

Rendering of Barry P. Gossett Basketball Performance Center.

Lastly, Evans announced that Willard’s players will work and train in the new Barry P. Gossett Basketball Performance Center. According to Evans, The shovel is hitting the dirt in January 2023. This dedicated basketball space will include a state-of-the-art strength and conditioning center designed to meet the needs of basketball student-athletes as well as technologically advanced meeting rooms for coaches. Evans and Willard are eager to avail these amenities to the finest players in the DMV and across the nation.

Rendering of Maryland strength and conditioning center

Evans parted ways with a “good” coach… The goals are clear… Evans and The University of Maryland are giving Willard everything he needs to develop and maintain a competitive edge in recruiting and attract the nation’s top talent. Willard has hired Cox and Skinn, they have to do better than just make the NCAA tournament. Evans expects Willard to position Maryland as a top-tier program. That means he expects Big 10 and National Championships.

Evans and Willard want to make the DMV the focal point of Big 10 Basketball.They want to shift the locus of of power from the midwest to the mid-Atlantic.

They have some really big goals… You have to put some “respeck” on their names…

Evans greets Howard Hudson, Hakim Hart and Donta Scott’s Grassroots coach with Philly Pride

They are on a quest to conquer and dominate the Big 10. The conference has existed for nearly a century as league of similar universities located primarily in the Midwest. Penn State joined in 1990, then both Maryland and Rutgers joined in 2014. The Big 10’s geographic footprint now spans from the Midwest to the Atlantic Ocean. This invasion has altered the college basketball landscape. Mid-major A10 programs like La Salle, St. Joseph’s and George Washington have been significantly impacted by arrival Big 10 basketball to the Mid-Atlantic region. With the hiring of Willard, the focus on the DMV, the additions of Cox and Skinn and the construction of the Basketball Performance Center, Evans and Willard are taking their shot.

The targets are crystal clear… Big 10 and National Championships… They are looking to displace Matt Painter and Purdue, Juwan Howard and Michigan as well as Tom Izzo and Michigan State.

Anything less will be considered a disappointment… A huge disappointment… Ask Turgeon.

“You come at the king, you best not miss.” Omar Little, The Wire.

Don’t Overthink It: An Open Letter to La Salle’s President and Athletic Director

March 23, 2022

Dr. Daniel J. Allen, President
Brian Baptiste, Vice President for Athletics & Recreation
La Salle University

Dear Dr. Allen and Mr. Baptiste:

Don’t overthink this thing… I realize you guys aren’t from round here. As you get set to make an extremely important hire, I just wanna offer a few thoughts on La Salle University and where it fits in today’s rapidly transforming Division 1 college basketball landscape from local perspective. The basketball coach at La Salle becomes the face of the university. Who would best represent La Salle and La Salle basketball at this point in the history of the storied Explorer program?

Gentlemen, I pay close attention to college basketball and college basketball coaching hires and have done so for more than 30 years. My focus is primarily on Philadelphia and the mid-Atlantic region. I am convinced that La Salle can make a very good decision and become competitive in the Atlantic 10 in a relatively short period of time.

Ain’t gonna be easy though… Right now, La Salle basketball is in a very tough spot.

Shit is different… College basketball is in the midst of a massive and consequential paradigm shift. Things are not like they were just a few years ago when La Salle last hired a basketball coach.
The emergence of the transfer portal, immediate eligibility and name, image and likeness (NIL) compensation has truly changed the game.

You face a serious challenge.

You have to identify a coach whose values align with Lasallian Catholic heritage of the university. You also need a coach that will provide substantial assistance to your efforts to address the surmountable structural deficits your basketball program faces. The questions you face become: Exactly where does the La Salle basketball program fit in this vexing and fast changing NCAA Division 1 context? And, who would be the best leader of the program going forward?

One name stands out above all other candidates…

Phil Martelli, Michigan associate head coach

I think you should hire Phil Martelli to lead the La Salle Men’s Basketball Program. Michigan is fine and all, but I’m sure Martelli longs for cheesesteaks, soft pretzels and water ice. La Salle should bring him home. For a multitude of reasons, Martelli’s your man.

You are starting from the rear of the A10 pack. In addition to being at the bottom of the confernce standings, La Salle’s basketball facilities are among the most antiquated in the mid-Atlantic region. Programs like Monmouth, Delaware, Towson, Coppin State and UMBC play in modern state-of-the-art on campus arenas. Meanwhile, it seems like La Salle has been raising money for an arena project since Larry Cannon was getting buckets at 20th and Olney. You need someone to play point guard on that project. You need to get it done. Martelli has proven himself to be an absolute star fundraiser in the Greater Philadelphia region. His commitment to Coaches versus Cancer has been unwavering.

Daniel J. Allen, President of La Salle University

Then, once renovations are underway, you will need a coach capable of leading an A10 program playing games and practicing off campus for a year or two. Martelli has been there and done that. During the 2007 season, it was announced that the St. Joseph’s University Fieldhouse would be closed and transformed with a $25 million renovation project to provide a 21st-century facility for the men’s and women’s basketball programs. St. Joseph’s was in a position very similar to the once faced by La Salle today. During renovations, Martelli’s Hawks played their home games at the Palestra on the University of Pennsylvania’s campus.

You gotta get the arena renovation done… Absent renovated facilities, La Salle will struggle mightily in the A10 for the foreseeable future.

As you know, the Big 10 is in the midst of a well-funded and sustained basketball invasion of the mid-Atlantic region. They have effectively encircled La Salle and the region’s other mid-majors: Rutgers to the north, Penn State to the West and Maryland to the South. The BIG BOY programs ain’t fucking around. They are putting tremendous pressure on mid-major programs to drastically improve facilities and increase resources allocated to the basketball program.

Just yesterday, I attended the press conference introducing Kevin Willard as the new Head Coach at the University of Maryland. Willard inked a seven-year $29.4 million dollar deal. Also yesterday, Maryland’s Athletic Director, Damon Evans announced that construction of a $40 million dollar Basketball Performance Center would commence in early January 2023.

Why are they spending so much money?

Gentlemen… Like most people, elite high school prospects and capable college transfers like nice things. High major programs like Penn State, Rutgers, Villanova and Maryland have an abundance of shiny new things… Even low major programs like Monmouth, Delaware, Towson, Coppin State and UMBC have a lot of shiny new things…

La Salle does not… La Salle has zero (0) shiny new things…

I’m convinced that La Salle would be best served by having a highly motivated Martelli to lead the program as it closes the facilities gap. This is a task that must be undertaken ASAP. Among area college coaches there is a consensus that Delaware, Drexel and perhaps Rider are more desirable coaching destinations at this point. Given his extensive track record with Coaches versus Cancer, Martelli is uniquely positioned to assist La Salle in raising funds while also coaching the team through a major renovation.

At La Salle, Martelli will take advantage of and leverage his strong relationships within the Philadelphia basketball community to effectively navigate the current college basketball recruiting terrain. These days, schools can dramatically reshape their basketball program in a relatively short period of time. But only if you have developed and implemented an effective transfer portal strategy.

Today’s recruiting process is highly compressed. Transfer portal recruiting is more important traditional high school recruiting. For most college programs it has become the primary recruiting vehicle. College basketball recruiting, to a large extent, consists of monitoring the transfer portal, a zoom and a few days of texting/calling. Scholarship offers and commitments are taking place between portal residents and college coaches at a breakneck pace. La Salle needs an experienced and discerning coach to navigate this new highly fluid transfer portal era. Most importantly, the coach must have genuine relationships with those helping young men in the transfer portal make the decision regarding the next destination.

Phil Martelli is that dude… He is deeply entrenched in Philly hoops circles…

Again, don’t overthink it… Who is La Salle gonna find more qualified for this job?

In addition to his formidable “soft skills”, Martelli is a damn good basketball coach. His career record sits at a solid 447-330 (.575). Over the course of his 24 year head coaching career, Martelli’s teams made the post-season 13 times (7 NCAAs and 6 NITs). He led St. Joseph’s to Atlantic 10 Tournament Championships in 2014 and 2016. Today, Martelli is Associate Head Coach at the University of Michigan. Since he joined Juwan Howard’s staff in 2019, the Wolverines are 61-31. Martelli went 3-2 as acting head coach while Howard served a 5 game suspension.

He’s my guy… He’s my friend… He’s the best man for the La Salle Head Coaching job right now… While I understand the obligation to conduct a national search, for better or worse La Salle is a distinctly Philly job… A devout Catholic, Martelli played in the Philadelphia Catholic League at St. Joseph’s Prep. A Philadelphia lifer that rose to become the consensus National Coach of the Year, Martelli understands and appreciates what La Salle basketball represents locally, regionally and nationally.

The challenge you face is identifying a coach that will aggressively recruit elite players while maintaining a commitment to the core values of La Salle University. You need a coach that gonna get it done in the short-run despite the facilities gap and represent La Salle in a dignified manner at all times.

Brian Baptiste, Vice President for Athletics & Recreation

President Allen and Mr. Baptiste… Phil Martelli is that guy.

Recruiting at La Salle in 2022, while aggressively fund raising and renovating facilities, will be a tremendous challenge. Don’t take unnecessary risks gentlemen. Go with the guy that has recruited top level A10 talent to a small catholic university just a few miles away from your campus.

The transfer portal is all about who you know and who trusts you. Martelli has a vast network of deep relationships in the mid-Atlantic region. Black Cager Sports enthusiastically and unequivocally endorses Phil Martelli for the Head Men’s Basketball Coaching position at La Salle University.

Bring Martelli on for 4, 5, 6, 7…. y’all work out the years.
Leverage his fund raising skills on your arena campaign.
Utilize his experience coaching a team undergoing major renovations.
Allow him to stabilize the program and regain a foothold in an increasingly competitive A10.
Identify a succession plan going in…

Don’t overthink it… Some shit just makes sense.

La Salle Athletics Announces Change in Leadership with Men’s Basketball Program


Contact: Dan Lobacz, 215-951-1932

March 21, 2022, PHILADELPHIA – La Salle University head men’s basketball coach Ashley Howard will not return next season, Vice President of Athletics and Recreation Brian Baptiste announced Monday.

Ashley Howard, Former La Salle University

“I would like to thank Ash for the guidance he provided to our student-athletes over the last four years,” Baptiste said. “Unfortunately, the performance on the court did not meet our expectations. The time is right for a change in leadership that will benefit our student-athletes and the future of the program. We wish Ash, his wife, Ari, daughter, Journey, and son, Ace, nothing but the best in their next chapter.”

Howard recently completed his fourth season as head coach of the Explorers, compiling a 45-71 record and a 25-46 mark in Atlantic 10 play.

“I would like to give my heartfelt gratitude to the La Salle community for their support of me and the program over the last four years,” Howard said. “Unfortunately, I was not able to lead the program to the heights and expectations that were set. I am better for my experience as a head coach at La Salle, and I will always be a supporter of the Blue & Gold. Believe.”

Kyle Griffin, Interim Head Coach

Associate head coach Kyle Griffin will serve as interim head coach. A national search for a new head coach will begin immediately.

“La Salle men’s basketball is a program that is well known across the college basketball landscape, due to the outstanding student-athletes and coaches that have been a part of our proud institution,” Baptiste continued. “Our alumni, our fans, University administration, and I­ have high expectations for returning the team to success at the highest levels and maintaining our student-athletes’ nationally recognized excellence in the classroom. We will work diligently to find a head coach who is committed to building a championship-caliber program.”


The FINAL word on the Transfer Portal!

As they say around the way… Team Final is FLEXXIN’!

Over the past fifteen years, quite a few NBA players have emerged from the Team Final camp. Off the top of my head, I think of Tyreke Evans, Dion Waiters, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, Rondae Jefferson, Mikal Bridges, Davon Reed, Malachi Richardson, Donte DiVincenzo, Mikal Bridges, Louis King and Cam Reddish. I may have missed a couple… I apologize if that’s the case… I certainly don’t want no smoke with #FinalFam… Real shit…

Team Final is NOT in the mood…

In the face of this year’s stampede into the already jam-packed NCAA Transfer Portal, Team Final has, very publicly, established clear parameters for college basketball programs seeking to recruit kids playing under the Final umbrella.

At 1:30 PM on March 14 the official Team Final twitter account issued the following tweet:

declaration: “Attention all college coaches!! If you push any of our players into the transfer portal, you can NOT recruit any of our players again! #TeamFinalFamily”

With that edict, Team Final is attempting to provide some cover and leverage for young men that played in their EYBL program. The NCAA transfer portal has resulted in a significant increase in the number of D1 and D2 (scholarship level) transfers in Men’s basketball. While many young men initiate the transfer process themselves, a significant number of student-athletes are pushed into the portal by coaches looking to free up scholarships.

These guys are vulnerable… Coach comes in and says “It’s not working… we’ll help you find a spot…” it’s over. Every day young men are being pushed into the portal.

Team Final has decided that they will implement consequences for college coaches that push their players into the portal. Any coach that runs off a Team Final player is forever banned from recruiting other players in the program. Given Team Final’s track record, that’s a consequence with bite. Team Final produces a steady flow of Division 1 prospects and occasional NBA lottery picks.

This move by Team Final is significant. They are asserting that Team Final is in a position to impose consequences for actions they deem unbecoming by college coaches. Can Team Final actually prevent college programs from recruiting players in their program? What if college coaches goes through the high school coach? Or the workout guy? Or the shooting instructor? Or the strength coach? Or the principal? Or the pastor? Or the uncle?

How will Team Final actually stop the college coaches?

Having raised these questions… Let me say, I actually think any AAU/grassroots program can fairly easily create a narrative and shape the perspective of it’s players and parents. It’s doable… I’ve seen it done…

Moreover, Team Final is asserting that it is appropriate for grassroots clubs to impose consequences. Suppose… just suppose… the kid is a “asshole”? Suppose the kid is non-compliant with team rules and expectations? Suppose the kid deserved to be dismissed from the program?

Suppose another kid in the program really likes the college and wants to play there? Does Team Final actually prevent his enrollment? If so, how?

Can Team Final block college programs? Yup

Should Team Final block college programs? I dunno

Will Team Final block college programs? Absolutely… They aren’t bluffing.


Collin Gillespie… Howie Evans with a National Championship?

“We’ve had all great leaders: (Jalen) Brunson, (Ryan) Arcidiacono… He’s the one that is most like a coach. He literally stops them [in practice] and teaches them. He’ll say, ‘Stop. Look, you’ve got to lock and trail on this. I’m helping high, you’re trailing.’ … He’s a teacher.”

Jay Wright, Villanova Coach

Soon, the last page will turn and the book will close on Collin Gillespie’s magnificent college basketball career. I still recall the first time I heard his name… It was the summer of 2016 and the late great youth basketball coach Paul Gripper was telling everyone that would listen that John Mosco had an under appreciated and under recognized Philly point guard on his roster. “Del… This is a bad white boy… I’m tellin’ you he’s a D1 point guard.” This was before Gillespie scorched any and all comers in the Philadelphia Catholic League while leading Archbishop Wood to their first championship. Before Collin settled any and all debates about the best HS guard in Philly that year. Before anyone else, Gripp told the world Collin Gillespie got that “John Blaze shit.”

Well… everyone in America can now see what Gripp saw six years ago…

Collin Gillespie, Villanova

Last season, Collin Gillespie shared the Big East Player of the Year honor, but this season, in his return as a fifth-year senior, the 2017 Philadelphia Catholic League POY stands alone as the Big East’s best. The lone unanimous All-Big East first team selection, he was also named the Big East Scholar-Athlete of the Year Award. Gillespie is the first player in Villanova history to earned Big East Player of the Year honors more than once in his career. Earlier today, he was named the MVP of the 2022 Big East Tournament after leading Nova to another title in Madison Square Garden.

As he prepares to exit the college stage, it seems appropriate to try place Gillespie in the pantheon of great Philly guards? Which Philly guard is he like? Who does Gillespie remind you of? After giving this considerable thought, I think Temple’s Howie Evans may be the most appropriate comparison for Gillespie.

I would go so far as to argue, Gillespie is Evans with a National Championship!

Now… I saw them both… in high school and college… However, I realize younger readers may not have a frame of reference… After all, Evans began his college career 38 years ago. Young hoopheaps have no idea how good Evans and those Temple teams were… Let me walk you through this comparison…

Howie Evans and HOF Temple Coach, John Chaney

First and foremost, I had to find a point guard that was a winner. We think of Gillespie as the ultimate winner and rightfully so. Gillespie has been a winner every year at Villanova. However, Evans won even more than Gillespie. Temple played 132 games over Evans’ four years… They won 114 of them. The Temple record from 1984 to 1988 (114-18) resulted in a gaudy .863 winning percentage. Villanova during the Gillespie era has gone 127-35. That’s a great record and it includes a National Championship in 2018. But the winning percentage of Evans Temple teams (.863) is better than Villanova since Gillespie arrived (.783).

Evans per game stats
Evans total stats

While both are pass first Philly point guards, both can get a bucket when needed. For his career, Evans averaged 11.1 ppg over 132 games for a total of 1,459 points. Gillespie averaged 11.9 over 150 games for a total of 1,784 points. Keep in mind Gillespie, most likely, has a few NCAA tournament games to play.

Gillespie per game stats
Gillespie total stats

Both were solid, not spectacular, shooters. Evans shot 41.6% from the field and 39.8% from behind the 3-point line. Gillespie has shot 42.4% from the field and 38.8% from behind the 3-point line. For his career, Evans attempted 9.0 and made 3.9 field goals per game… Gillespie has taken 8.9 and made 3.8.
Evans averaged 2.9 rebounds per game, Gillespie has averaged 2.8.

Evans was a better play maker. This is evidenced by the fact that he averaged 5.7 assists per game for an incredible 748 career assists. Gillespie has averaged 3.1 assists for a career total of 456. On the other hand, Gillespie has fewer turnovers, 213 compared to Evans’ 253. Neither guy was doing much rim protecting… Evans 17 career blocks, Gillespie 6.

Evans was more proficient at playing the passing lanes… He finished 268 career steals compared to Gillespie’s 148.

Both in my mind and statistically speaking, this thing is really close…

But, I have to give the edge to Gillespie… He got that chip!

But I want readers to know two things: 1) Collin Gillespie is a BAD muthafucka, and; 2) You kids just don’t understand how good Howie Evans was at basketball!

What Are Reasonable Expectations for Area D1 College Basketball Programs?

What’s a good year for a coach or a team? The answer varies for different programs. A below average year for Villanova would be strong year for most college basketball teams. Here in a highly UNscientific manner, I offer “reasonable expectations” for area programs. These reasonable expectations are based on historical performance, league affiliation, facilities, financial incentive, recruiting patterns, etc.

Do we set the bar too high for some programs? It is too low for others? What do you think?

Collin Gillespie, Villanova


Top 2 in Big East every year

Top 4 Seed in NCAA tournament every year

Sweet 16 every year

Final 4 every 4 or 5 years

Big East is a multi-bid league

Hysier Miller, Temple


Top 3 in American Conference every year

Post-season every year

NCAA tournament 3 out of every 4 years

NIT 1 out of every 4 years

Sweet 16 1 out of every four years

AAC is a multi-bid league

Dahmir Bishop, St. Joseph’s

Saint Joseph’s

Top 4 in A10 every year

Post-Season 2 out of every 4 years

NCAA tournament 1 out of every 4 years

NIT tournament 1 out of every 4 years

A10 is a multi-bid league

Jhamir Brickus, La Salle

La Salle

Top 6 in A10 every year

Post-Season 2 out of every 4 years

NCAA tournament 1 out of every 4 years

NIT tournament 1 out of every 4 years

A10 is a multi-bid league

Sam Sessoms, Penn State

Penn State

Post-Season 3 out of every 4 years

Top 7 in Big Ten every year

1 NCAA tournament every 4 years

NIT tournament 2 out of every 4 years

Big 10 is a multi-bid league

Paul Mulcahy, Rutgers


Top 7 in Big Ten every year

Post-Season 3 out of every 4 years

1 NCAA tournament out of every 3 years

NIT tournament 2 out of every 4 years

Big 10 is a multi-bid league

Camren Wynter


Top 4 in CAA every year

Post-Season 2 out of every 4 years

NCAA tournament 1 out of every 4 years

NIT tournament 1 out of every 4 years

CAA is a one bid league

Jordan Dingle, Penn


Top 2 in Ivy League every year

Post-Season every year

NCAA tournament 2 out of every 4 years

NIT tournament 2 out of every 4 years

IVY League is a one big league

Allen Powell, Rider


Top 2 in MAAC every year

Post-Season 2 out of every 4 years

NCAA tournament 1 out of every 4 years

NIT tournament 1 out of every 4 years

MAAC is a one big league

Elijah Ford, Wagner


Top 2 in NEC every year

Post-Season 2 out of every 4 years

NCAA tournament 1 out of every 4 years

NIT tournament 1 out of every 4 years

NEC is a one bid league

Myles Carter, Delaware State

Delaware State

Top 4 in MEAC

Post-Season 1 out of every 4 years

NCAA tournament tournament 1 out of every 4 years

NIT tournament 1 out of every 4 years

MEAC is a one-bid league

Saint Joseph’s Basketball Today, March 9, 2022

“Get the fuck outta here…”

“Naah man… real shit… They banged Phil.”

I didn’t believe it… I really could not wrap my head around what I was hearing… After 24 years as head coach of Hawks, Phil Martelli was pushed out of the door.

Martelli was a good coach… A damn good basketball coach… He led SJU to an Elite 8 in 2004. He made it to the Sweet 16 in 1997 and 2004. He made the NCAA tournament seven (7) times and participated in the NIT on six (6) other occasions. On four occasions (1997, 2001, 2004, 2005) Martelli led the Hawks to regular season A10 Championships. Three times (1997, 2014, 2016) he cut down the nets after capturing the A10 tournament. He was the consensus National Coach of the Year in 2004 and named A10 Coach of the year on 4 different occasions.

Michigan Head Coach Juwan Howard (l) and Associate Head Coach Phil Martelli

“Get the fuck outta here… They didn’t bang Phil…”

“Yo man… it’s all over the internet.”

“Imma hit you back… Let me read this shit…”

There it was… SJU athletic director Jill Bodensteiner said she made the decision mutually with St. Joseph’s president Mark C. Reed. “Recommended by me, approved by him,” Bodensteiner said. “This was anguishing, unequivocally the hardest decision I’ve made in my life. But I’m owning it.”

I respected the fact that Bodensteiner owned her decision.

With that… Martelli was done at St. Joseph’s… He was 444-328 (.575) overall and 218-176 (.553) in the A10. When his 13 post-season appearances in 24 years are taken into account, one can argue that Martelli did a helluva job at Saint Joseph’s.

The Philadelphia basketball community took a deep breath, looked directly into Bodensteiner’s eyes and like Andy Reid on a Monday morning press conference sighed, “Time is yours…”

Bodensteiner was on the clock… She was at bat and needed to hit a home run. To many, Saint Joseph’s is and always has been a solid basketball club that offers classes when practice is not in session. The SJU job was sure to attract a bevy of highly qualified candidates. Bodensteiner noted at the time “I think this is an incredible job, in large part thanks to Phil.”

After considering the likes Bruiser Flint, Jameer Nelson, John Thompson, III, Geoffrey Arnold and several other candidates, Bodensteiner and President Reed handed the keys to the Hawk program to Sixer’s Assistant Coach Billy Lange.

Lange came to St. Joseph’s with a 93-114 (.449) overall record as a D1 head coach at Navy. He was 42-56 (.429) in Patriot League games.

Three years later… Lange is 22-60 (.268) overall and 10-38 (.208) in the A10 at St. Joseph’s.

St. Joseph’s was just defeated by La Salle in the 12/13 play in game for the A10 tournament. The loss was the third to the Explorers this season. St. Joseph’s has finished 13th or T13th in each of the past 3 seasons.

SJU AD, Jill Bodnesteiner, Head Coach Billy Lange and President Mark Reed

Perhaps, it would be unfair to compare Lange’s record to Martelli’s over a full 24 years. But it seems more than fair to compare Martelli’s last 3 years with Lange’s first three seasons.

Phil went 41-55 (.427) overall and 20-34 (.370) in the A10.
Lange has gone 22-60 (.268) and 10-38 (.208) in the A10.

I get it… It’s hard as shit to win A10 games… It took time… sometime 2 or 3 years… but Phil would always figure it out. He was positioned to ascend the A10 mountain again…

The day he was let go, Martelli’s roster featured Jameer Nelson, Jr (2nd team All-CAA), Jared Bynum (2nd team All-Big East), Hakim Hart (2 yr Big 10 starter), Bones Hyland (Denver Nuggets), Charlie Brown (Sixers 2-way deal), Ryan Daly (G-League) and Taylor Funk.

It’s safe to say, with that core group of players, Martelli would have made a run and gotten to an NCAA tournament or two. But, the SJU brain trust lost faith in Martelli and pulled the trigger.

Some will contend that I give Martelli the benefit of the doubt because he is my “guy”. They would not be entirely wrong. I will be the first to admit, I am able to make that assertion because Phil is my “guy.”

Because he is my “guy”, I got to see how he won games and built teams. I was at every game within driving distance… I was at practices… I was in meetings with kids… I saw the prospects in high school and on AAU circuits… I was able to tell Phil, “Philly Pride is gonna look out for you…” and watch Chris Clover, Charlie Brown and Hakim Hart subsequently sign LOIs with the Hawks…

Because Phil is my “guy” I got to see the sausage being made… Then every 3 or 4 years we had a helluva meal…

2014 A10 Champions, St. Joseph’s Men’s Basketball

I was with the team in Brooklyn when they found out who they were playing in the NCAA tournament in 2014… I was there again who they did it in 2016.

I expected to be there in 2020, 2021 and 2022.

St. Joseph’s basketball, however, has taken another direction.

I think their GPS might be broken… I’m hungry…

Drexel vs Delaware: March Madness is Upon Us!

Zach Spiker and the Drexel Dragons face Martin Ingelsby in the first round of the CAA Tournament at the Entertainment and Sports Arena in Washington, D.C. today at 2:30 pm. This is the 4/5 game.

Spiker, in his 6th year leading the Dragons is 76-102 (.427) overall and 36-63 (.364) in the CAA. Ingelsby is also in his 6th year at Delaware is 92-85 (.520) overall and 45-54 (.455) in the CAA.

Delaware finished the regular season with a record of 19-12 (10-8 in CAA) T-4th. Drexel finished the regular season with a record of 15-13 (10-8 in CAA) T-4th.

Ingelsby has had greater success during the regular season. His overall winning percentage (.520) is ten points above Spiker’s (.427). But we all know that you play college basketball to make the NCAA tournament. In 2021, Spiker pulled a rabbit out of a hat, won the CAA Tournament and the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament after finishing 6th in the regular season with a record of 4-5.

Martin Ingelsby, Delaware Head Coach

The Blue Hens are led by guards Jameer Nelson, Jr. and Kevin Anderson. Nelson (14.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg and 2.3 apg) is an athletic and explosive combo guard. He attacks the basket with a quick and effective first step and crossover ability. Nelson’s handle is very strong and he gets into the lane effortlessly. He will bang it on you… He finishes well through contact at the rim and is unafraid to go over bigs in traffic. He gets good lift on his jump shot and has a quick release. He hit 38% of his 3FG this season. Nelson is a solid and unselfish passer, he always looks for the open man. Really excels defensively and has a chance to develop into a great defender.

Anderson has been an excellent combo guard throughout his career at Delaware. Blessed with good size and athleticism, he has become a good shooter.  Knocked down 38.3% of his 3’s last season, and has a very smooth stroke. At 6’5″ with a 6’8″ wingspan, Anderson has great size and length for a combo guard. An intelligent player, He uses his length to disrupt the passing lanes and shoot over smaller defenders. He is a solid ballhandler with decent shot-creating ability. On of his strengths is his great court vision.  Anderson is an excellent passer and leads the team with nearly 4 APG this season. He is a very instinctive offensive player, both as a scorer and a distributor.

Andrew Carr (l) and Kevin Anderson (r)

Senior PF Dylan Painter (12.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg, 2.0 apg), Senior guard Ryan Allen (12.1 ppg, 2.1 rpg. 1.8 apg) and sophomore PF Andrew Carr (9.7 ppg, 4.7 rpg, 1.4 apg) round out the starting five for Ingelsby and the Blue Hens. Freshman forward Jyare Davis (8.7 ppg, 3.7 rpg, 1.0 apg) was named CAA Rookie of the Year. Davis scored in double figures in each of the final 10 regulars-season games, while averaging 15.7 points and 6.9 rebounds.

Ingelsby has a crew that could make some noise in the CAA Tournament

Camren Wynter (center)

But first he’ll have to vanquish Spiker and the Dragons. Led by 1st team All-CAA selection Camren Wynter (15.3 ppg, 5.3 rpg and 4.7 apg), sophomore Xavier Bell (11.1 ppg, 1.4 rpg, 1.7 apg) and CAA Defensive Player of the Year sophomore PF/C Amari Williams (9.7, 7.3 rpg and 1.1 apg), the Dragons are looking to make another run through the CAA Tournament.

These are solid CAA contenders. The local CAA teams seemed to have inched ahead of the local A10 teams. Drexel vs Delaware is a bigger more important league tournament game than the La Salle vs St. Joe’s A10 Tournament play-in game on Wednesday.

Shit be changin’… Quick…

From the HEART- 2022 Norristown Basketball

by James Nelson-Stewart

Bring It, What?
We right Here.
We’re not going anywhere
We right Here.

Those words from the late, great DMX best describe what we are witnessing with this 2022 Norristown Eagles Boys Basketball Team. A team that was forced to sit the entire 2020-2021 by no choice of their own is now battling Lower Merion, the 2021 Defending District Champion, for the chance to be called the 2021-2022 District 1 Boys Basketball Champions on Saturday at Temple University 6PM.
Normally when I enter journalist mode, I make any stories devoid of emotions to really convey the “FACTS” of the event that is happening, going to happen or happened. This one is very different for me. This is not James Nelson Stewart writing this piece, it’s the “Chief Justice” that is giving you this version. For many that will read this, they understand the difference between the distinction between the 2 names involved.

One of the things I love about sports is it results driven. A win is a win, a loss is a loss, and a tie is a tie. We can say and think whatever we want but the result is still going to be the result and 99.9% of the time there is nothing we can do to change it. But there are those occasions when the Story is more important than the result of the game. There are those times when the human element, better called the emotional side of sports is bigger than the overall picture. This Norristown Team represents that for me on many levels.

Khalif Wyatt, Norristown Alum

I will start with the history of Norristown Basketball in a synopsis. One of the area’s powerhouses for years, Norristown also went through the changes that are sweeping or swept a lot of our more ethnic suburban schools such as Chester, Cheltenham, Coatesville, Darby Twp and others. The schools have either been raided for their talent, changed for “academic reasons” or closed altogether. A lot of the Norristown talent was being showcased at other schools in the Delaware Valley. Even with that Norristown’s basketball history included players like the late Great Henry Williams (Jacksonville & ABA), Daren Queenan (25th all time leading scorer in NCAA history 2,703 points at Lehigh), Harry Allen (Memphis), Derrick Perry (Rider & Overseas), Tai Crutchfield (Philly U & Overseas), Marques Green (St. Bonnies & Overseas), Willis Gardner (Colorado St & Overseas), Khalif Wyatt (pictured above) (Temple & Overseas) and Michael Starling, who is known today as “Big Star” from Raw Sports plus so many more that I could list.

Hames Jarden, Norristown alum

The tradition for Norristown is great and the pride that TOWN takes in its basketball is even greater. Another name that could be put on that list is the current coach of this Norristown Team is Dana “Binky” Johnson. Coach Johnson was one of the stars of the 1990 4A District Champions that went to have a Hall of Fame career at Canisius under Coach John Beilein, who eventually moved up the ranks to become the Head Coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers. The history between me and Coach Johnson goes back many years. As a young man in my early 20s, we teamed together and won a championship in the famed Norristown Oak Street Summer League, where many of today’s coaches and father of players laced them up and battled for street bragging rights. My hard charging style was a great fit for the cerebral player that Coach Johnson was.

Our team had balance all of the floor. Norristown Assistant coaches Coach Julius “Whip” Mack (my roommate for a semester in college and longtime friend from Wissahickon) and Coach Rowan “Roe” Watson was also on that team that beat current Lower Merion Superintendent Dr. Khalid Mumin in the playoffs that year (like I said there were some heavy hitters). Another Norristown Assistant Coach Joedy Johnson goes back even further than that with me. My “Brother” Joedy and I go back to when we were kids running around on the back streets of Penllyn as toddlers. We learned how to play sports together amongst other things. Relationships like those are rare in these times, so I cherish it very much. My emotions is pulling for that coaching staff.

Then you got the current players like Sr PG DJ Johnson (Coach’s son), Sr PG Righteous Mitchell, SR SG Zaki Gomez and Sr F/C Johnny Dinolfi that I followed as young kids when they were developing into basketball players and So G Myon “Mister” Kirlew, that I personally coached on a MadeHoops 8th grade team. That feeling of excitement is running through my body as they have a chance to accomplish history, that NO ONE outside of that locker room expected them to achieve.

Demitrious Lilley, Lower Merion

This piece isn’t in anyway against Lower Merion, a team that I really, really appreciate. Dr. Mumin is a man that I support, respect and admire. Head Coach Gregg Downer may be the Dean of District 1 coaches at this exact moment and is the epitome of what a Hall of Fame Coach’s resume should look like. Respect is due. Sr 6-1 PG Jaylen Shippen is the son of John Timms, another friend of mine in this crazy basketball world. Sr 6-9 C Demetrius Lilley (Penn St Commit) is the most dominant player in District 1 PERIOD. Jr 6-3 G Sam Brown is very good now and improving daily especially with his father being former Sixers Head Coach Brett Brown. I fully respect them and will cheer them on as they pursuit another State Championship for the Aces. This is a formidable team that has already beaten Reigning state Champion Reading High and just took the undefeated record of Cheltenham in their last game. Norristown has an extremely HUGE task ahead of them but just this one time I’m putting away my logical James Nelson Stewart side and I’m using my more emotional Chief Justice side in hoping someway that Norristown can pull this victory off.

One thing I can guarantee is that Norristown will be filling the Liacouras Center in droves tomorrow.


La Salle Comes Back From 15 Down to Beat St. Joe’s… Again

I needed another break…

Earlier today, I learned that 12 year old Thomas Sidero was fatally shot by Philadelphia police officers Tuesday evening after a bullet was fired into the police cruiser. The bullet that went through the window and passed through the passenger-seat headrest.

According to police reports, two officers got out and fired at Thomas, who they said was carrying a semiautomatic handgun that was equipped with a laser. One of the officers shot him in the upper right back area once. The bullet exited through his chest, police said.

Thomas Sidero, a Philly pre-teen, was dead minutes after being shot… fuck!

The drumbeat is incessant… It’s bad in ‘round the way… Really bad… Shit just piles up…

To escape from reality for a couple of hours, I decided to attend the second annual game to determine who will wear shirts and skins during the play-in portion of the A10 tournament.

La Salle Head Coach, Ashley Howard during a timeout.

Last year, Ashley Howard and the Explorers won the first game they played against the Hawks. In that game, Jared Kimbrough played his finest game as an Explorer, tallying 24 pts, 6 rebs and 1 blk.

Right before the second Hawk-Explorer contest on February 20, 2021, Superman showed up at Hagan. He emerged from the Hawk locker room with a long flowing crimson cape, trimmed with grey silk, around his neck. Ryan Daly scored 30 points, shot 13-19 FG, 3-6 3FG, grabbed 7 rebounds, dished 2 assists and blocked 2 shots after missing after missing 2 months and 10 games between Dec. 21 and Feb. 20 due to a broken thumb and torn ligaments on his left hand suffered against Tennessee.

Less than 2 weeks later… The Explorers, donning shirts as the 12th seed, faced the 13th seeded Hawks (skins) again in the play-in game. Although St. Joe’s was skins, no one told Ryan Daly he could put his cape back on one last time and lead what had been a moribund group of Hawks to a victory in a first round A10 tournament game. I watched as Daly searched for, found and entered the few remaining phone booths in the Wynnefield section of Philadelphia and Richmond, Virginia. Over the course of two weeks and 4 games, he emerged from phone booths with his muthafuckin’ cape on every time… In the A10 tournament game against La Salle, he scored 23 points, grabbed 5 rebounds, dished 2 assists, got a steal and even blocked a shot.

Less than 24 hours later, UMass found some kryptonite. The Minutemen controlled Daly and smacked the Hawks by a final score of 100-66… Season over.

Last night… we got the second installment of this year’s trilogy.

Howard greets Lange before the game.

The Hawks and Explorers faced one another at 20th and Olney. Once again, this game was to determine who will wear shirts and skins in the A10 tournament’s 12/13 play-in game. St. Joseph’s was firmly in control of this scrimmage throughout the first half and early in the second half. Indeed, with 17:52 remaining in the game the score was St. Joe’s 39 – La Salle 24. Lange and the Hawks were up 15… Things were looking good…

Funny thing happened… an old fashioned intense, hotly contested Big 5 basketball game broke out…

For the last 17 minutes of the game it felt like Rich Tarr, Tim Legler, Larry Koretz and Lionel Simmons were once again wearing the blue and gold. The Explorers, despite a dreadful shooting night, refused to lose to the Hawks.

They clawed, kicked, scratched and fought their way back into the game. The Explorers commitment to defense was the key to the game. La Salle won this game by stopping St. Joseph’s from scoring. They held St. Joseph’s to a meager 12 points for the entire second half.

La Salle was just the tougher team. The Explorers wanted the win more than St. Joe’s.

Jhamir Brickus, La Salle point guard

As a result, just like last year St. Joe’s will be skins when the A10 tournament begins next week.

However, this time Superman has left the building… Ryan Daly accepted his SJU sheepskin, framed it, hung it on the wall and moved on to the professional ranks. All is not lost though… I’m sure he left the cape somewhere on campus. That thing has been handed down for generations… It looked really good on Galloway, Bembry, Carroll, West, Nelson, O’Connor, Crenshaw, Bey, Myers, Bass, Townsend, Blunt, Curry, etc. Especially, this time of year…

On many occasions, those guys went into phone booths and came out with the cape flowing ready to kick some ass… We’ve see these dudes literally carry St. Joe’s to victory in exciting, meaningful A10 Tournament, NIT and NCAA tournament game action.

So… there’s only one question remaining: Who’s gonna put the muthafucka on for this St. Joe’s team?

Hall? Obinna? Funk? Reynolds?

Somebody… Anybody… Hello… Bueller…

It’s really hard to win college basketball games… Wins in a tough league like the A10 can be especially tough to accumulate… Let’s compare the A10 coaching records of some familiar names…

Hall of Fame Coach, John Chaney won 3 out of every 4 A10 games he coached. Fran Dunphy won more than 7 out of every 10. Coach Cal won almost 7 out of every 10. Brusier won 2 out of every 3. Phil won well over half of the A10 games he coached. These guys were, at various times, A10 standard bearers.

Last night, Ashley Howard strong arm wrestled his 24th A10 win away from Lange and the Hawks. Atlantic 10 wins have been scarce the past three seasons for Saint Joseph’s which now fallen in each of its last seven contests heading into a final regular season game against Rhode Island. The Hawks have lost 10 of their last 12.

They are struggling to close out with leads… Somehow… Lange and St. Joseph’s held La Salle to 49 points for the game… and lost.

They lost because La Salle played the entire game realizing they only needed to score 1 more point than St. Joseph’s. So, even while shooting a poor 32.8% from the floor and 21.4% from behind the 3 point line they remained fully engaged at the defensive end and were able to pull out a win.

La Salle Assistant Coach, Pat Chambers

La Salle decided St. Joe’s would not score. The Hawks’ 27.4 field goal percentage represented the worst mark by a La Salle opponent this season. Saint Joseph’s scored 12 points in the second half, a season low for the team.

With this win, the Explorers improve to 2-0 against the Hawks on the season. La Salle also defeated Saint Joseph’s 75-64 on Jan. 17. The two teams are virtually locked into 12/13 play in game for the A10 tournament next week. La Salle sits in 12th place in the A10, 9-18 overall and 4-13 in the A10.

Now in his fourth season as Head Coach, Howard has struggled to gain a foothold in the A10. Thus far, he has won a little more than one out of every three league games.

But the last 2… Those big wins are keeping hope alive…

La Salle Freshman, Khalil Brantley provides a spark off the bench.

Last week, Khalil Brantley scored 17 points as La Salle erased a 30-19 halftime deficit and defeated Dayton 62-60 on Saturday. Clifton Moore had 16 points and three blocks for La Salle which snapped its five-game losing streak. Jack Clark added 13 points and nine rebounds.

Last night, Brantley provided 11 hard-earned points, including a 3-pointer that tied the game at 48-48 with 1:27 to play. Jhamir Brickus had 10 points, Jack Clark grabbed six rebounds, Clifton Moore had seven blocks and Christian Ray had 10 rebounds.

After they close the regular season with last-placed Dusquense and Rhode Island respectively, La Salle and St. Joe’s will meet for yet a third time.

The two Philly A10 schools will face off in the first game of the first round of the conference Tournament on Wednesday, March 9, 2022 a 1:00 pm. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.
Two things for sure… Ryan Daly won’t don a cape next week for St. Joe’s and the Lange’s Hawks will be skins after surrendering a 15 point second half lead…

Check rock!

Thomas Sidero was 12… He was just twelve…