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For as much as we want to ring his neck, Bonnies lucky to have Schmidt

I chatted for a couple minutes with Phil Martelli after his Saint Joseph’s team lost to St. Bonaventure on Sunday afternoon at the Reilly Center. The veteran coach sounded helpless. The Hawks aren’t very good and there is not much he can do about it.

“We are who we are,” Martelli said. “We’re a 7-9 team because we have holes in our game.”

St. Joe’s dropped to 1-4 in the Atlantic 10. The Hawks are in for a long last couple months of the season.

Believe it or not, Martelli has been down this road before with the Hawks. For all the success he has enjoyed on Hawk Hill, St. Joe’s has also endured five losing seasons under Martelli, including back-to-back 20-loss campaigns in 2010 and 2011.

But anybody who knows anything about college basketball knows the Hawks will be good again – and soon. St. Joe’s is lucky to have Phil Martelli.

And for as much as we criticize Mark Schmidt, St. Bonaventure is lucky to have him, too.

When we criticize Schmidt here on the blog, it is on a microscopic level – from game-to-game, week-to-week. It tends to be easy to narrow focus, especially after consecutive losses earlier this season to the Sisters of the Blind Deaf & Poor.

But, when you zoom out and examine Schmidt’s body of work in its entirety, it’s hard to argue with the results. The Bonnies are always in the thick of it in the A-10. They are again this year. They will be until the end.

Not that Schmidt doesn’t deserve to be criticized. That’s the nature of his job. He is paid handsomely to coach basketball, among other obligations. Boosters, alums and community members hand over their hard earned money to support Schmidt’s team and help pay his salary.

Still, when fellow fans mention the possibility of moving on from Schmidt, my response is be careful what you wish for. Lest we forget when St. Bonaventure was trying to play let’s make a deal with Will Brown. That would have been a disaster.

More than that, Mark Schmidt’s system works at St. Bonaventure: Uncover recruits nobody else wants or knows about. Develop them. Coach them up. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Schmidt has disproven the notion that the St. Bonaventure gig is career suicide. But that doesn’t make the job any easier or any more desirable to some potential candidates for when Schmidt and SBU finally do part ways.

I hope Schmidt’s stay with the Bonnies is long, like Martelli’s at St. Joe’s.

Sure, there will be many more rough patches when you want to ring the coach’s neck. But, somehow, Schmidt always makes it worth the trouble in the end.

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A member of the class of 2008, Nolan spent four years as a student assistant with the program. He has written professionally for such outlets as espn.com/insider, Athlon Sports Magazines, Cox Sports Online and Blue Ribbon Previews. Ian was named one of the “140 Personalities to Follow in College Basketball” on twitter by The Sporting News.


  1. Jonathan May

    The fear that resonates with me isn’t when SBU gets fed up with Schmidt rather it’s the other way around.

    Watson was the guy who brought in Schmidt and he left for ‘greener’ pastures. In any job, when the person who invested in you leaves, the employee has to question where the end game may now lie.

    I can’t imagine Schmidt is just okay with small budgets, bus trips rather than flights and a facility that is essentially a gym. I know the system of growing players over four years works but any coach would love to approach recruits with the intent of said recruits impacting games before their junior or senior year.

    Schmidt can win 15 games a year and scratch out one maybe two in the A10 tournament and as alumni I would be content. The days of at large are over but when a guy invests his life into our small school and does it the right way, he’s good in my book.

    Here’s hoping the search for an AD leads to a candidate that approaches the program and pushes for more broadcasts and visibility in Western New York. Just a small recruiting tool but maybe that lands Schmidt some more quality recruits that can come from all over and still be seen by family.

    All in all, if people are unsatisfied with the job being done, I’m with you, be careful what you ask for. Nobody has to loom further that the little three with Canisius and Niagara. Things weren’t so bad with McDonald and Parrotta ran the program into the ground. Niagara didn’t cast a wide enough net and they’re paying for their Mihalic replacement.

  2. Vinny Pezzimenti Post author

    Jonathan, I certainly understand your concern with Schmidt leaving, especially in the wake of Watson’s departure.

    Virginia Tech showed some interest a few years ago and Boston College interviewed Schmidt last year, although that was more out of courtesy. Still, he hasn’t been highly sought afteras one might expect, probably because the Bonnies have only enjoyed moderate success outside of 2012.

    I also get the sense that Schmidt enjoys living in Olean and working at St. Bonaventure. I think it also means a lot to him to have his sons finish high school at Olean.

    Of course, as you elude to, things can change quickly when your boss leaves and a new one comes in. Schmidt and Watson were close and always pulling together. That might not be the case with the next AD.

    • Jonathan May

      Being a native Western New Yorker, I love hearing how Schmidt appreciates the area and perhaps the big fish in a small pond sort of way.

      My concern probably isn’t just with Schmidt leaving but who the new AD will be and if Bonaventure will cast a wide net rather than narrow into their past ways.

      After reading the Dukes Blogger Q and A in reference to endowments and facilities, even a lateral move could resonate with Schmidt. He’s a guy that I could see leave and return to Western PA to revive that program if the Dukes do move on from their current skip.

      Clearly, a lot of hot air but being such a small school, these things constantly pester me. Also, as a Bills fan, the paranoia is just a normal way of life.

      You guys are doing a great job too, it’s been refreshing to read every couple of days.

      • Ian Nolan Post author

        I think that’s possible but not likely in terms of a move to Duquesne….unless of course they offered him a handsome raise. I could more likely see him going to a place closer to MA where he’s actually from. If BC offered him that job I’m sure he was gone, as he should have been. I do agree though with you that at some point MS may look around and say, “Hey, I’d like that budget now.” Or, “I’d like to recruit to that city and that arena”. Whenever that happens is when SBU may have issues keeping him around. For now, let’s just hope he is content in Olean and that he’s enjoying raising his family there. Also, thanks for the words of support! Spread the word.

  3. Marty Finn

    Very nice piece. Schmidt can stay as long as he wants.

  4. Mike

    I don’t think people appreciate how not having an official quality AD is going to negatively effect us if it lasts for too long.