Thursday, September 1, 2011

Holy War moved out of the Palestra

Remember when St. Joseph's flirted with an undefeated season?

Me too. They had a back court made up of Jameer Nelson and a pre-crazy Delonte West, they didn't lose until their A-10 Tournament quarterfinal date with Xavier, and came within a John Lucas jumper of making the Final Four. That was a very, very good basketball team.

Its only been seven years since that memorable season, but I wouldn't hold it against you if you didn't recognize the Hawks in their current state. They've made just one NCAA Tournament and haven't finished better than fifth in the league since 2005. The last two seasons, the Hawks have lost 20 games. That's a long fall from the team that was named the best of the 00's by Sports Illustrated.

Head coach Phil Martelli is looking for a way to spark the program, and in an effort to do so, he's moving St. Joe's Big 5 home games from the Palestra to the on-campus Hagan Arena.

There's been a lot of discussion at the highest levels on campus about creating the buzz, getting the fervor and the fire back," Martelli told Dick Jerardi of the Philly Daily News. "How do you do it? The easy thing is to say win games. To get the building where it's kind of bursting at the seams again."

"It's a way to get people to sit up and pay attention again."

Its an interesting move for Martelli to make. He's been adamant in the past about his love for the Palestra -- a building with as much tradition as any in college hoops -- and his desire to keep the Big 5 games, particularly the Holy War game against Villanova, in the building. But his first priority has to be rebuilding his program, and he appears to be on the right track. St. Joe's finished last season strong, making a run to the A-10 Tournament semifinals. With a roster that is young, fairly talented and returning all but one player from last year's team -- none of who will be seniors -- it at least appears the Hawks are headed in the right direction.

As Martellie explains it, the point isn't to take away from the Big 5 or to ignore the history of the Palestra, but to wake a program that's hit the snooze button the past two seasons. To reignite the Holy War, one of college basketball's fiercest rivalries that has lain dormant for the past five seasons.

"I am loud and clear on my love of the Palestra," Martelli said. "I'm loud and clear on my love of the tradition, Philadelphia basketball. At this moment in time, if somebody wants to say that this is a selfish act or it's two-faced, at least they're talking about us."

Its working.

When was the last time we wrote about St. Joe's here on BIAH?

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