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There has to be something missing in the Todd O’Brien story

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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If all you read is Todd O'Brien's first-person account to SI.com of his attempt to transfer from St. Joseph's to Alabama-Birmingham this summer, it's easy to believe Hawks coach Phil Martelli must be a monster.

The way O'Brien tells it, Martelli is holding him hostage out of spite by refusing to sign a waiver to allow him to play his senior year at UAB.

O'Brien graduated from St. Joseph's in four years, still had a year of basketball eligibility left and took advantage of an NCAA rule allowing players in such situations to transfer without forfeiting a year of eligibility. Now St. Joseph's is receiving backlash from all corners of the internet because O'Brien is attending classes at UAB and practicing with the team but he's unable to appear in a game until Martelli signs off on it.

It's possible that's all there is to the story and that Martelli truly is abusing his power, but the more likely scenario is there's something we're missing.

It makes absolutely no sense for Martelli to be this irate over O'Brien's transfer since the reserve big man averaged a whopping 1.0 points in seven minutes per game last season. Furthermore, Martelli has no known track record of attempting to prevent transfers from leaving his program.

St. Joseph's has done little to help fill in the blanks in this story, declining to make Martelli available to Yahoo! Sports and other media outlets. Instead the school released a terse statement insisting it "followed all applicable NCAA procedures" in choosing not to release O'Brien.

CBSSports.com revealed a potentially pertinent fact on Tuesday, reporting that Martelli kept O'Brien on the team even though he was involved in the incident that resulted in Pat Swilling Jr. being removed from the team for stealing a laptop. Maybe Martelli expected more loyalty from O'Brien, but that alone doesn't come close to justifying the St. Joseph's coach decision not to release his former player.

Ultimately, there are two options here: Either we can decide we know enough to condemn Martelli for his actions, or we can hold off out of faith that there must be more to the story.

For now the latter seems like the better option. But considering the needless PR hit St. Joseph's is taking here, the Hawks might be better off releasing O'Brien anyway.

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