Ten years later, St. Joseph’s perfect season still a benchmark

Ten years ago the St. Joseph's Hawks not only went 27-0, but also ran all the way to the Elite 8 to cap a legendary season that still resinates in the city today.
Ten years ago the St. Joseph’s Hawks not only went 27-0, but also ran all the way to the Elite 8 to cap a legendary season that still resinates in the city today.

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a decade since the Saint Joseph’s Hawks Men’s Basketball team, led by Chester, Pa. native and  Player of the Year Jameer Nelson, finished with an undefeated regular season (27-0). Their remarkable run captivated not only the city of Philadelphia but the entire country as the team lived a true Cinderella story.

Pat Carroll, who still resides in the area and Rob Sullivan, the Director of Basketball Operations at St. Joseph’s were two key members of the Elite 8 squad. Neither one can believe ten years have passed since they made memories on the hardwood that will last a lifetime.

“It’s unbelievable,” Sullivan said. “The coolest part of it being a decade later is seeing where everyone is in their personal and professional lives. We all keep in touch (and) I think that’s the epitome of the team that was together in 03-04.”

Even with La Salle reaching the Sweet Sixteen last year and Villanova advancing to the Final Four in 2009, Sullivan, who joined the squad as a walk-on ten years ago, feels that the 2003-04 Hawks could take them both.

“I would put that team up against any team within the past decade to win a game,” Sullivan said.

When players and coaches realized, prior to their historic season that Jameer Nelson was deciding to return to Hawk Hill for his senior campaign, they knew they had the potential to do something historic.

“I never put a certain expectation that  team could be a Final Four team or win the Atlantic 10 or go undefeated, Hawks head coach Phil Martelli said.  “None of that entered my thinking.”

Martelli, a four-time Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year (1997, 2001, 2004 & 2005) has been one of the best coaches in Philadelphia history, and has had success in seasons since the undefeated run. But he can’t go long without being reminded of the campaign.

“It seems like a long time, ten years,” the coach said. “I get asked about that team multiple times a week, it only seems like a handful of years ago but ten is a long time. It was a standard of what a team was about. I used them in my mind to measure myself and to measure my current players and current teams, so I think about them quite a bit.”

Martelli still remains on the bench and hasn’t forgotten about his team’s loss to Eddie Sutton’s Oklahoma State Cowboys, a win away from the Final Four in 2004.

“Who says that I’m over it?” Martelli said.


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