This is the fourth segment of an AJC interview with Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner. In it, he explains how the game vs. UCLA in Shanghai came about and also what he wants to get done in the offseason and shares his feelings about heightened expectations for next season.
Q: How did the China game come about?
A: The Pac-12 does it and we have campuses over there in Shanghai. The president (G.P. “Bud” Peterson) and the administration was on board for it. It’s an ESPN game. Nov. 10. We play UCLA.
Q: Will you be there for the week?
A: We’re there for the week.
Q: What are your thoughts about going?
A: I don’t want to sit on a plane for 16 hours. However, it’s going to be a great bonding experience for our team and we may never get that experience again. But I’m not looking forward to the length of the travel. I sure hope we win the game because it’d make it a much easier trip on the way back for me. But we scheduled it, so we’re going to go out there ready to play.
Q: Did you know who you were going to play when you signed up?
A: Yes. And I thought it was a good game and good exposure.
Q: From now until you can start in the summer, what are things you have to organizationally, planning-wise?
A: There’s little things. I mean, obviously, the biggest thing is we’ve got to fill out our roster. We’ve got to get stronger and faster and more explosive. I need to watch all the games. I’ll do that in May and some time in June and really reflect. Watch each game that we played and what do I like and not like so when we get into fall practices … This summer, I’m going to use (the workouts) more for the very basics. Just to review for the guys that we bring in, just getting them caught up to speed but, really, what do we need to do on those adjustments and tweaks that we need to make and how do we get better?
Q: I think externally, and maybe internally, there’s an expectation or perception that you guys made it to the finals of the NIT, now you should make the NCAA Tournament. I’m curious what you think about that.
A: Nobody wants to get to the NCAA Tournament worse than I do. That I can tell you. Nobody. Nobody wants worse to get to the NCAA Tournament than me. What I would also tell you is we’re so far from being out of the woods. This is a major rebuild job. And you can look at that last game vs. TCU. I mean, that’s a Big 12 team.
We’re not there yet. We’ve got work to do. We’re going to work like crazy every day to move the needle to get us to the tournament, but the original plan was year 4 being in the NIT and year 5 being in the NCAA tournament. We can never forget we’re still in a major rebuild phase and we need multiple recruiting classes to get us out of that rebuild. You need multiple recruiting classes.
The best guys sometimes you sign are going to be in the fall. Not always in the spring. So the spring guys we don’t know yet. The biggest impact or imprint that we’ll have on our success for this season is going to be in the ’18 class in the fall.
Q: How is that looking?
A: We’re good. We’re involved with a lot of good kids, a lot of good prospects. But they have to be good enough, they’ve got to be able to handle the student-athlete part of it and are they gettable.
Q: I hear what you’re saying. You could go to the NIT and it be a good season…
A: Nobody wants to go to the NCAA Tournament worse than I do. Nobody. There’s nobody. But what I would tell you is, we have lot of work to do before we get to that point and we’ve got to be able to win road games. We’ve got to be able to protect home court like we did this year but we have to win some road and neutral (site) games. We’ve got to win our share of road and neutral games.
Q: I guess what I’m getting at is, if you don’t go, you could have a good season and people will be like, “Why didn’t you go to the tournament?”
A: Excellent. I hope they do. They should be. If we lose a game we should win, they should be (ticked) off. I want them to be upset. That’s emotional investment into their program. If they’re not upset, then they don’t care. I don’t want them. I want them to care. When we win – the thrill of victory. And when we lose – the agony of defeat, and they’re sick about it.
They should want us to get into the NCAA Tournament. If we’re not, they should be disappointed in us. That’s part of an emotional investment from the fan base to their program.