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John Calipari played role in Juwan Howard hiring Phil Martelli at Michigan

There are a lot of moving parts to this story.

NCAA Basketball: NCAA Tournament-Midwest Regional Practice Jay Biggerstaff-USA TODAY Sports

Phil Martelli became the head coach of the Saint Joseph’s Hawks when I was in middle school.

After a 24-year tenure at the helm of that program in Philadelphia, he was let go in March of 2019 after several disappointing seasons.

At 64 years old, many believed that Martelli would drive off into retirement. But due to a seemingly random set of circumstances and conversations, his unemployment was short-lived.

Fairly soon after being let go, Martelli started making phone calls to prominent coaches to let them know he was not done. He made sure his friends, including Jim Boeheim, Tom Izzo, and John Calipari, knew to spread the word that he would listen if anyone wanted to talk about him coaching again.

After traveling with family and taking some time to reflect, Martelli returned home to a flurry of phone calls, the first of which was from John Calipari.

According to Mark Jensen of the Inquirer, Calipari told him, “I want you to get off the phone. Juwan Howard wants to talk to you.”

As we know now, Howard was on the verge of interviewing for the head coaching vacancy at Michigan. He had been calling prominent coaches to ask for input on the position and his interview, and Martelli was on his list of inquiries.

After Howard accepted the position, word got back to Martelli that Howard was asking around about him. While everyone seems to love the guy, there were questions about his ability to take a lesser role, especially in a more competitive conference hundreds of miles away from where he had lived most of his life.

Ultimately, Howard wanted Martelli on his staff to help him adapt to the day-to-day responsibilities of being a college head coach. Howard also needs Martelli there to help him learn the rules and regulations as they pertain to college recruiting.

Without those conversations with John Calipari, would Martelli have been able to find his way to Michigan? Perhaps. But given how Calipari raves about Juwan Howard, you would have to think that Coach Cal made the decision easier on Martelli’s end.

Read Jensen’s entire piece on Martelli’s new gig here.