This is the third segment of an AJC interview with Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner. In it, he looks at the guard group for next year, answers what loss will stick with him and goes over his plans for non-conference scheduling for next season.
Q: Can Jose Alvarado step in and play right away?
A:I believe a few things here. Three-pronged thing. One is, what I love about Jose is winning matters more to him than actually breathing air. That’s how important winning is to him. Secondly, we have to get Justin Moore a lot better. He’s got to improve. He had a good (year), considering where he started in his high school career and where he was originally going to go (Tulane). We’ve got to get him a lot better. And then thirdly, to win at the level we all want to win at, you’ve got to have great – not good, but great – point guard play and one’s not enough. Multiple guards. Guard play is everything to win at this level.
We’ve got to get better in that area. One, through Justin improving. Jose’s got to come in ready to produce as a freshman and then we’re still looking at other guards if need be. To win at the level we want to win at, that area is vital. And it’s not just one. It’s multiple guys we’ve got to have in those spots.
Q: Is there a game you’ll kick yourself about?
A:Here’s what I would tell you. Man, you would love to have every loss you can think of, but you’d love to have the Virginia Tech game at Virginia Tech . However, I always tell people, when people say, ‘You should have won,’ you’re looking at it through that lens. The other lens is, O.K., yeah, you wanted to have that game. You had a lead late. On the other hand, then you shouldn’t have beaten Carolina, you shouldn’t have beaten Notre Dame, you shouldn’t have beaten Florida State. You’ve got to look at it (through) both lenses. For me, it’s important to look at the big picture and look at both lenses.
Q: Academically, is everyone in good shape?
A: Everyone’s in good shape.
Q: You were gone a good bit.
A:Hey, in the fall we had the highest GPA for Georgia Tech men’s basketball in history.
Q: Will that happen again?
A:I don’t know. We’ve got high-character kids and they undestand it takes great discipline to be a student-athlete here.
Q: What would you want to see from Tadric Jackson?
A:He’s got to be a counter. Meaning that I’ve got to be able to count on him every time we step on the floor that he’s an elite guy. And it’s on him to do it. He’s got to change his habits and I’m going to push him and make him change his habits. But then he’s got to want to do it. We’re going to hold him at the highest level of accountability you can hold somebody to. He’s a huge key part for our team’s success next year.
Q: Do you get the sense that he wants to commit at that level?
A:He wants to. But actions speak louder than words. And I believe in him. And I’m hard on him because I believe in him and I know his abilty and he’s an X-factor for our team, but it’s got to be an every day change of habits.
Q: I’d think some of Tadric’s areas of improvement are similar to Josh’s – finishing and layups.
A:(Josh Okogie) has got to finish and work on his layups, but his habits are there for him to get better. He has some things already instilled in him internally that, if I can get Tadric in that same way, that same mentality… Tadric’s got a lot of ability now. A lot of ability. We’ve got to find any way we can to pull every ounce of it for next season.
Q: Abdoulaye (Gueye), the way he was progressing…
A:Him getting hurt hurt us because it made Ben play literally every minute of every game.
Q: Could you see him starting or playing a lot more?
A:He’s got to get better. I think the injury’s actually going to help his game because it’s forcing him to really work on some things with coach (Eric) Reveno, but he has to get better. He’s just got to really improve his skillset.
Q: Do you already know how you’ll schedule the non-conference?
A:We’re getting there. We’re playing in China against UCLA. We’re playing at Georgia. We’re playing Tennessee at home. Tennessee at home, we have two more years with that team because that’s the previous staff’s schedule and the previous staff scheduled for us to play at Wofford. And we’ll be in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. And the rest we’ll fill in with buy games.
I think we’ll have double byes in the ACC, so my question is, Do I play two Division II teams and not have any bye weeks?
Q: Do you know yet?
A:I’m leaning that way. I like, once we get to Christmas, playing two games a week. Stay in rhythm.
Q: Will the buy games (against non-Power Five schools) be similar to this year?
A:I think our non-conference schedule is a little high in the RPI. But I believe in a major rebuild job, there’s three things — hiring, scheduling and evaluating/recruiting. We’ve still got to schedule properly. We’re not out of the woods yet. Far from being out of the woods. And we’ll get tested plenty of times in the ACC. And you’re at Wofford, you’re playing UCLA, you’re playing Tennessee, you’re playing Georgia and you’re playing in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. So you have a minimum of 24 games — you’ve got 18 in the league, (the five aforementioned non-conference games) and then one in the conference tournament. That’s 24 top-100 RPI games you’re playing. That’s a lot.