Todd O'Brien should be prepared to suit up tonight for UAB's tilt with VCU. However, Phil Martelli—O'Brien's former coach at St. Joseph's—has obstinately refused to grant the seven-footer a release from his scholarship, relegating him to the sideline.
SI.com published O'Brien's account of the abhorrent situation on Monday.
In sum, O'Brien—a graduate student with one year of eligibility remaining—elected to transfer from St. Joseph's last summer to pursue a graduate degree in Public Administration. However, Martelli refused to grant O'Brien his release.
In Martelli's defense, O'Brien's decision was spontaneous and rather late.
But how tenable is that?
Check that—not at all, especially considering Martelli is on the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Ethics Coalition. The ethical response... well, that's painfully obvious.
Also in Martelli's defense, we've only heard one side. However, Martelli hasn't made an effort to respond to reporters, which enraged Seth Davis.
The St. Joseph AD's statement to SI.com was pathetic. Martelli's silence even more pathetic. He's acting like he has reason to be ashamed.— Seth davis (@SethDavisHoops) December 20, 2011
O'Brien's pursuit of a graduate degree is genuine—he adamantly says he'll achieve his degree before he even considers playing professionally overseas.
In other words, basketball is only secondary. He'd love to play for UAB because of his voracity for the game, but he left St. Joseph's for academic reasons—not, according to him, because of his reduced playing time with the Hawks.
Yes, some have also cited Martelli's support of O'Brien after his alleged involvement in a laptop theft as a reason for O'Brien to be loyal. But, regardless, shouldn't education supersede basketball—hence, STUDENT-athlete?
How could such an "ethical" man not support this?
Also, O'Brien didn't choose a rival school like Temple. Martelli's anger would be more justifiable then, but his decision probably wouldn't be.
Martelli's obstinacy, compounded by O'Brien's plea, has already resulted in potentially irreparable damage to the longtime coach's reputation.
George Dohrmann of Sports Illustrated tweeted this:
If this is all true then no parent should ever send their kid to play for Phil Martelli. Truly classless.sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/basketbal…— George Dohrmann (@georgedohrmann) December 19, 2011
Overall, the public sentiment supports O'Brien. How could it not?
Hopefully Martelli has a justifiable response.