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Govens and Carter were part of a highly decorated, five-player freshman class in 2006 that had Martelli enthusiastic. Instead of becoming the next generation of Hawks’ stars, though, they morphed into just another class that helped the program spiral toward mediocrity.

Temple coach Fran Dunphy and the A-10 rival Owls then started winning the recruiting battles for local players like Lavoy Allen, and soared to the top of the standings.

“It’s recruiting outcomes,” Martelli said, “not mistakes.”

Sitting on a folding chair in the corner of a cramped Palestra locker room, Martelli scanned his forlorn assistants after a 72-54 loss to the Owls on Saturday, and lamented they can no longer sell the program based on Nelson’s glory era.

“It’s hard for these guys to get really juiced in recruiting because you carry around a tattoo of (5-16),” Martelli said. “That’s a hard thing to walk in and get on the phone and juice a kid. One of our things is, the Hagan Arena is a great place to play, but this year you can’t bring a kid to a game because, understandably, the crowds are light and the juice is not there.”

The proper name is the Michael J. Hagan ‘85 Arena, renamed for the former SJU student and current benefactor whose $10 million donation led an expansion and renovation of the outdated fieldhouse. Nelson and West chipped in, too.

Look around the landscape of all college sports and big-dollar donors are calling the shots. Last month, a major benefactor to the University of Connecticut asked the school to return $3 million in donations and remove his family name from its football complex because he says he was shut out of discussions about the selection of a new football coach.

Hagan insisted he has no say _ nor does he want one _ in the direction of the basketball program.

Like any SJU fan, Hagan is disappointed with how the program has tumbled from the top of the sport. But he’s a staunch Martelli supporter and won’t exert his considerable financial clout to ask athletic director Don DiJulia for a change.

“When he had talent around him, he almost got us to the Final Four,” said Hagan, enjoying Saturday’s game from his courtside seat. “Phil knows what he needs to do to get that team back in the situation he was seven years ago. He’ll get us back there.”

Hard to imagine Final Fours when Temple students are delightfully chanting “You are awful!” at the beaten Hawks. St. Joseph’s, in fact, went 0 for 8 in January and lost three straight games to city schools.

“He’s going to have to get some recruits,” Nelson said after a game last week at Indiana. “Let’s get it correct. Talent along with coaching is going to win you games. We had a lot of talent. He’ll be the first to tell you that we made his job easy because we had a lot of talent.”

Martelli’s job is anything but easy these days and, even for a casual observer, the losing is taking a toll. Martelli always dismissed or deflected criticism and poor performances with humor. But the quips come as rarely as the victories these days.

The mostly anonymous Internet message board criticism of his coaching has grown bolder with every key stroke. Martelli points out piles of letters on his desk in support to prove most SJU backers still believe in him.

DiJulia laughed at a question about Martelli potentially being on the hot seat and said the coach has the full support of Saint Joseph’s administration. Martelli, who showed tremendous loyalty sticking with the program when he was the hottest coach in the nation, is signed through 2015-16.

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