You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to myAJC.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and bonus content- exclusively for subscribers. Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks

X

Welcome to myAJC.com

This subscriber-only site gives you exclusive access to breaking news, in-depth coverage, exclusive interactives and bonus content.

You can read free articles of your choice a month that are only available on myAJC.com.

At 38, Josh Pastner starting over at Georgia Tech


On Friday afternoon, Hal Pastner was on the floor of Georgia Tech’s McCamish Pavilion. His son Josh had just been introduced at a news conference as the Yellow Jackets’ new basketball coach. Now Josh was fielding more interviews and the Pastner clan — besides Hal, there was his mother, Marla, his wife, Kerri and their daughters, Payten, Kamryn and Harper — was soaking in a momentous day.

His father could tell that his son was flagging, having slept little the previous night, if at all. But he saw something else, too.

It was, he said, “the energy of enthusiasm of, like, ‘Wow, what I love to do’ — the recruiting, talking to players, selling a great program and teaching ’em up, coaching ’em up and taking something at the highest level — the ACC — and going against the best.”

After a sour and dispiriting end to his seven-year tenure at Memphis, one in which Tigers fans applauded his departure for Atlanta, Pastner aims to rise again. With the challenge to lift the Yellow Jackets back to national prominence, Pastner has a chance to make his own imprint. At the age of 38, having gone from coaching wunderkind at 31 to local pariah, Pastner is running to this next opportunity.

“I love the opportunity to build,” Pastner said. “Because people say, ‘Hey, it’s going to be hard next year.’ Everyone was telling me. I’m like, I’m fine with that.”

In April 2009, Pastner was 31, an assistant coach ready to follow John Calipari from Memphis to Kentucky, when he was named the next Tigers coach. Pastner was the next act after a historic success, a four-year run in which Memphis averaged 34 wins, reached the Elite Eight twice and the national championship game once.

In seven seasons, Pastner averaged 24 wins and led Memphis to four NCAA tournament appearances, but never made it past the second round. Not bad, but not Calipari. After two seasons without postseason play, and signs of dysfunction such as a flood of transfers, Pastner’s future at Memphis was very much in doubt.

Pastner is energetic, optimistic and liked by his peers. But as he fended off slings the past two seasons, his father saw a heaviness in him. Hal Pastner told his son that the troubles were blessings, and that he would someday understand.

“Life’s about learning, growing,” he said.

As he conducted his search, Tech Athletic Director Mike Bobinski saw a coach with a .696 winning percentage, a gift for recruiting, drive and a vision for success. He didn’t ignore the storm that had centered on Pastner’s team, speaking with several people for an understanding of what had happened.

“When things sort of devolve like that in a highly charged environment, it’s like an avalanche,” Bobinski said. “You can’t stop it.”

And then he offered a way out and a new start. Pastner will have a rough ride — the Jackets return 24 percent of their scoring. But he isn’t following Calipari and 33 wins per year, either. He has a chance to build and to tell his father he was right.

Said Hal Pastner, “All that took place was a blessing, which has led him to today, for a true blessing, to get this opportunity.”


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

MLB's first Lithuanian learned the game where few play
MLB's first Lithuanian learned the game where few play

The decades-long journey of a father and a son, of a game and a country, ended with a sprint.  When Dovydas Neverauskas — fresh from the airport and wearing cleats and a glove bummed from his new Pittsburgh Pirates teammates — jogged onto the mound at PNC Park on April 24 to clean up what was left a lopsided loss to the Chicago Cubs...
Brian Hill: ‘The Falcons just got the best running back in this draft’
Brian Hill: ‘The Falcons just got the best running back in this draft’

Former Wyoming running back Brian Hill was not expecting the Atlanta Falcons to select him with the 156th overall pick in the fifth round of the NFL draft on Saturday. “This is a dream come true,” an excited Hill said via phone call. “I didn’t expect the Falcons. No one in the house was expecting the Falcons, but a lot of teams...
Falcons again go to LSU to take Duke Riley
Falcons again go to LSU to take Duke Riley

Duke Riley probably had an idea the Falcons were interested in him, and the former LSU linebacker wasn’t surprised in the least Friday evening when the Falcons used the No. 75 pick of the draft to select him in the third round. He was flat-out excited. The quickish Tiger from New Orleans was one of about 30 college players to have private, pre-draft...
Falcons select running back Brian Hill in the fifth round
Falcons select running back Brian Hill in the fifth round

Falcons selected Wyoming running back Brian Hill with the 156th overall pick in the fifth round of the NFL draft Saturday. “They just got the best running back in the draft,” Hill said. FIFTH ROUND (156th overall) Brian Hill, RB, Wyoming Height: 6-f00t-1 Weight: 219 pounds Arm length: 31 3/8 inches Hand size: 8 7/8 inches 40-yard dash:...
Falcons first pick: “I just want to be able to help out”
Falcons first pick: “I just want to be able to help out”

Falcons first pick Takkarist McKinley strikes a pose with coach Dan Quinn. (AtlantaFalcons.com) Sat down for a bit Friday with Falcons first-round pick Takkarist McKinley.
More Stories