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…
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.
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.
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.