When I posted this morning about former St. Joe’s center Todd O’Brien using SI.com to fire a figurative shot at Phil Martelli, I expected to receive immediate feedback from St. Joe’s folks… which I did.
Their opinion is that there is more to the story of Martelli denying O’Brien’s transfer right than what O’Brien says. They’re right– somewhat.
In February, O’Brien was suspended for a game against rival Temple for his “peripheral involvement” in an apparent laptop theft, a violation that led to freshman basketball player Patrick Swilling leaving the school. O’Brien didn’t suffer the same fate as Swilling, though– he missed a game against Temple, nothing more.
From Philly.com in February:
Junior Todd O'Brien also did not play against Xavier. The same release said O'Brien was out, "due to a failure to comply with the university's community standards."
The original release also said, "The university will conduct a judicial process to determine the future status of both student athletes."
That process is no longer relevant in Swilling's case, as he is not enrolled.
O'Brien was apparently peripherally involved with the laptop situation and after the fact. He did not play yesterday against Temple, but it is expected that his part in the university process will end today and he will be back practicing with the team shortly, maybe even today.
That’s very vague wording on both the part of St. Joe’s and their personal scriptual Dick Jerardi and his wattle, but we’ll assume that O’Brien had some involvement in protecting his friend, or the laptop… Or some similar secondary offense.
That was one story passed along by St. Joe’s folks as a reason why Martelli – who may have either done O’Brien a “favor” or been given enough reason to harbor ill will against him – would be blocking the graduate student’s transfer to UAB.
In addition, as you might expect, there were other, more grimy rumors of O’Brien’s extracurricular activities. We won’t mention them, but if you spend any time on college message boards, you’ll probably be able to make an educated guess as to what they entail.
Basically, the choir wants us to know that O’Brien is a dick.
That may be true, too.
His whiny prose on SI.com made him about as likeable as a Duke lacrosee player. Plus, very few college basketball players attend three school’s during their career, and there’s usually a reason why. The last one I can think of is former Villanovan Taylor King, who… well, um… you get it.
And then there’s that whole laptop thing for O'Brien.
But while none of that works in O’Brien’s favor, Martelli accomplishes nothing by blocking his transfer, and the whole thing still comes off as vindictive.
UAB is hardly a rival or threat to St. Joe’s. O’Brien isn’t going to help the Hawks. And, despite whatever happened between the two, should a grown man really have the right to get in the way of what is likely a player’s last year of competitive basketball?
Even if Martelli gave O’Brien “a pass" last winter, or if he harbors some ill will stemming from any number of O’Brien’s, um, habits, why be a dick about it? There’s nothing for St. Joe’s to gain other than bad publicity, which they’re now getting. I’d even argue that Martelli could do more harm to O’Brien’s image if he dropped the issue, got out of what is now a legal matter, and publicly slammed O’Brien for being ________.
National outlets are mostly in agreement. CBS is in O’Brien’s camp. Deadspin has a roundup of other media responses. ESPN sides with the seven-foot center. And, specifically, Jay Bilas, a lawyer who last night had this exchange with colleague and St. Joe's pitchman Joe Lunardi:
Let it go, Phil. Get over yourself.