Continued from page 2

Not all losses are bad ones: Martelli has shed almost 45 pounds since starting his weight-loss program April 1, 2009.

He still hosts his lighthearted “HawkTalk” TV show, with Lunardi serving as the Andy Richter sidekick, but gone are the steady stream of public appearances that made him a media darling earlier in his career. He’s ditching Wing Bowl this week, has turned down public speaking requests and cut back on extracurricular activities.

“This takes up all my time,” he said. “All my waking hours is making sure I can watch another half a game. Or maybe I can get another session academically with the players.”

He has talent on board. Forward C.J. Aiken is second in the nation in blocked shots and leading scorer Carl Jones has eight games of 20-plus points. Hope is on the way next year in point guard Chris Wilson from North Carolina.

“If Jameer Nelson was 6-4, he wouldn’t have come to Saint Joe’s,” Lunardi said. “When Saint Joe’s has been excellent, it’s by getting raw talent and molding it. Phil has been very good at doing that. For the first time in a while, it can be argued the pieces are here again.”

Until the pieces fit together, rebuilding will be painful. Martelli has led the Hawks to five NCAA tournaments (three with Nelson) and four NITs in 16 seasons on Hawk Hill. The Hawks haven’t made the NCAA tourney since 2007-08 and Martelli is 33-51 since ‘08 entering Wednesday’s game at Richmond.

But for the critics who believe Martelli’s best days are behind him, he’s made a promise to the doubters.

“I will tell you one thing,” Martelli said. “Vengeance will be sweet.”

_____

AP freelance writer Jim Johnson in Indianapolis contributed to this report.