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Time-Out Feature: Martelli Continues Legacy with Coaches vs. Cancer

Time-Out Feature: Martelli Continues Legacy with Coaches vs. Cancer

The following article appears in the Fall 2018 edition of NABC Time-Out Magazine. To view the entire Fall 2018 issue, click here.


Saint Joseph’s University coach Phil Martelli often says that the three most important things in his life are his family, his team, and the fight against cancer.

An ardent supporter of the American Cancer Society, Martelli spent a decade serving as chair of the Coaches vs. Cancer Council, a role he was passionate about as he shared his desire to crush cancer and recruit others in the basketball community to join the fight to save lives from cancer. He stepped down from that role earlier this Fall, turning over the duties to University of Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger, also an enthusiastic and generous supporter.

“Coach Martelli has such a passion for crushing cancer and helped grow our program in so many important ways,” said Reggie Minton, NABC deputy executive director. “We are grateful to him for leading us in recent years and we’re fortunate he’s going to stay an active member of the Council. It’s a great group of coaches and supporters committed to helping the American Cancer Society crush cancer.”

During Martelli’s tenure, Coaches vs. Cancer has grown to include thousands of college and high school coaches, new sponsors and partners, and helped raise over $115 million for the Society’s mission to save lives, celebrate lives, and lead the fight for a world without cancer.

Martelli has also served as co-chair of the Philadelphia Coaches vs. Cancer program since 1999. Under his leadership with Temple University coach Fran Dunphy, the program in Philadelphia has raised over $14 million dollars since its inception; including events such as the BasketBall Gala; Tip Off Breakfast; Jim Maloney Golf Classic; Preseason Luncheon; and School Initiative Program. He has leveraged his role as a community leader to raise awareness, build lasting partnerships, recruit participants, secure sponsorships and donations for each of these events.  He continues to motivate and inspire the community each day to make a positive difference in the lives of others. 

He extends his network, attends sponsorship meetings and has helped secure and maintain relationships with some of the region’s most influential players.

“Phil embodies the spirit of a true cancer advocate and acts as a champion for people affected by cancer. He solicits his personal and professional network to identify other supporters to help crush cancer and connects with people from across the country to join the fight,” said Natalie Morrison, director, Coaches vs. Cancer and Sports Alliances.

Phil’s wife Judy is also a champion for the American Cancer Society and Coaches vs. Cancer. She has raised awareness and funds, and organized team events at the American Cancer Society’s Hope Lodge in Philadelphia, a free home away from home for cancer patients and a caregiver to stay when cancer treatment is needed in another city. Judy and Ree Dunphy, Fran Dunphy’s wife, started and continue to lead Philadelphia’s Basketball, engaging the Philadelphia community for the mission of the American Cancer Society.  She has also been instrumental in the Coaches vs. Cancer Friends and Family initiative, which is currently raising $100,000 in a nationwide campaign for the Society’s Hope Lodge program before the Final Four in 2019. 

Phil Martelli’s fight against cancer is personal, having lost family members to the disease and witnessed friends and family members undergo challenging cancer treatment. His empathy and personal connection to patients and their families have left an indelible mark, and he regularly shares his hope that one day cancer will ‘no longer be the bully’.

“Phil is the gold standard of a cancer fighter.  He is selfless and giving to those that need him most, when they need him most.  We are incredibly fortunate to have Phil as our leader and are grateful for him every day.” Ruth Ann Dailey, vice president of Distinguished Partners. “Phil has helped create something unique in the Philadelphia market.  The Philly Six Coaches are fierce competitors on the court, but off the court they come together as one for the mission of the American Cancer Society.  The Philly Six Coaches vs. Cancer is a special group, and it makes all the difference for cancer patients and their families.”

In 2004 Martelli received the Coaches vs. Cancer Champion Award, and in 2017 he was honored with the Coaches vs. Cancer Circle of Honor Award with Dunphy.

“Leading our Coaches vs. Cancer team has been one of the most important roles I’ve had during my career,” Martelli said. “It’s been an honor to serve as Chair, working with so many great coaches, American Cancer Society staff and volunteers. We have accomplished a lot, but so much more needs to be done. I’m looking forward to staying involved with Coaches vs. Cancer and continuing to crush cancer, which continues to take too many lives,” said Martelli.

As past chair of the Council, Martelli will continue his involvement, and assist Kruger in continuing the success of the program.

“We are truly grateful to coach Martelli for his leadership and passion in leading the Coaches vs. Cancer Council as its chair for nearly a decade,” said Sharon Byers, chief development and marketing officer, American Cancer Society. “His contributions and commitment to crushing cancer inspire us, and we will do everything we can to continue the momentum he shared, aided by the fact that he is followed by coach Kruger, a passionate advocate who has raised the bar in terms of awareness and fundraising to help us continue attacking cancer from every angle.”

Coaches vs. Cancer has been a critical part of Kruger’s career. At Kansas State, he played and coached against Missouri’s Norm Stewart, who helped create the program. Kruger will remain chairman of the annual Coaches vs. Cancer Las Vegas Golf Classic presented by Sanford Health, which he founded 11 years ago. He is also a past recipient of American Cancer Society’s prestigious St. George National Award.

“It’s a privilege to follow Phil’s lead and serve as the new chair of the Coaches vs. Cancer council. He was so impactful in this position because he is genuine in his care for other people and knows the devastating impact cancer has on lives,” said Kruger.