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Phil Martelli speaks to the media for the first time since being named interim head coach

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Martelli will be the head coach for the remainder of the regular season, and possible into the postseason.

Atlantic 10 Basketball Tournament - Quarterfinals Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Phil Martelli spoke to the media for the first time since being interim head coach of the Michigan Wolverines following the suspension of Juwan Howard after the altercation at Wisconsin on Sunday.

It’s never ideal to close the year with an interim head coach, but to say Martelli is a good replacement is an understatement. He’s a former AP Coach of the Year and a Philadelphia legend, who led St. Joseph’s to seven NCAA tournaments, including an Elite Eight in 2004.

Martelli started the press conference with the obvious, saying he’s not Howard and clarifying Howard hasn’t been able to address the team, aside from text messages that came late after Sunday’s game.

Martelli went on to say he remains in contact with Howard, saying Howard is regretful of his actions and reiterating what Howard said in a statement yesterday following the suspension.

“We are all collectively remorseful — everybody learned a hard lesson,” Martelli said.

Martelli also said University of Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel addressed the team following the incident, saying Manuel gave a “masterclass” to the team after the altercation and giving the players “the facts,” commanding this type of incident will not be repeated.

Towards the end of the presser, Martelli was asked if handshake lines should be removed from college basketball entirely. He had a similar reaction to the question as Michigan State head coach Tom Izzo did yesterday.

“Do not get rid of them,” Martelli said. “We can not give in.. This is about more than basketball, it’s about teaching young people lessons.”

Martelli also said he did not think Michigan pressing at the end of the game, nor the timeout from Wisconsin in the final few minutes, were inappropriate.

After talking to the media for 30 minutes — the longest session of the year for a Michigan coach — Martelli said all the right things and seems more than ready to coach a Michigan team in need of a few more big wins to secure their spot in the NCAA Tournament.