A season that has surpassed expectations was accordingly recognized by the ACC’s voting panel Sunday.
Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner was named the league’s coach of the year while center Ben Lammers was named the conference’s defensive player of the year. Lammers was also named second-team All-ACC, was the leading vote getter on the all-defensive team and was second in voting for most improved player behind Wake Forest forward John Collins. Guard Josh Okogie was named to the five-player all-freshman team.
In his first season, Pastner becomes the third Tech coach to earn the honor, following three-time winner Bobby Cremins and one-time winner Paul Hewitt. With a team whose leading returning scorer averaged five points last season (forward Quinton Stephens) and was thought to have a chance to finish 0-18 in ACC play, Pastner led the Jackets to an 8-10 league record with wins over top-25 teams North Carolina, Florida State and Notre Dame.
“To me, it’s a program award,” Pastner said. “I mean, it’s a tremendous honor. It’s a great honor for our program because, you get an award like that, it’s based on the job that your staff has done. My assistant coaches, my entire support staff, my staff has been absolutely just awesome, and then obviously the players, because it’s the players producing.”
Pastner was twice named Conference USA coach of the year in a seven-year term at Memphis. He was the choice of 24 of 53 voters.
“Josh has done a great job with that team,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said Saturday after the Orange defeated Tech. Boeheim said Tech was the biggest surprise in the league and that Pastner deserved coach of the year honors without any question. “They really play well together.”
Lammers is Tech’s first winner of the defensive player of the year award, which was introduced in the 2004-05 season. Lammers was the primary force in the Jackets’ finishing the regular season seventh nationally in adjusted defensive efficiency, 72 slots better than their 2015-16 finish. Lammers’ ability to block shots (he’s third nationally at 3.32 per game) and alter others was a major reason why opponents shot 43.5 percent on two-point field-goal attempts, 16th in Division I and first in the ACC through Saturday’s games, according to teamrankings.com. He was named on 37 of 53 ballots.
Notre Dame coach Mike Brey called him the best rim protector in the league.
“We’ve piggybacked on his back, so for us to have a solid season like we’ve had to this point, he deserves a lot of credit,” Pastner said.
Okogie, who won ACC rookie of the week four times and joined greats Mark Price and Kenny Anderson as the only Tech freshmen to have multiple 30-point games, became Tech’s first all-freshman team member since Robert Carter made the coaches team in the 2012-13 season and the 15th overall. Okogie averages a team-high 15.5 points per game, the sixth highest average for a Tech freshman in school history.
“Similar to Ben, he continues to get better and better,” Pastner said. “The year he’s had as a freshman in this league is fantastic.”
Guard Tadric Jackson received four votes for sixth man of the year, which was won in a landslide by Virginia Tech guard Seth Allen.
Georgia Tech will be the No. 11 seed in the ACC tournament and will play No. 14 seed Pittsburgh Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Brooklyn.