Further Review

Steve Hummer's Further Review blog offers comments, asides and quick hits on the state of sports

Who’s having a worse time in China: Tech’s Pastner or UCLA’s Alford?

First of all, let’s acknowledge that it was a bad day for those opposed to a globalized economy. When three American college basketball players leave their Hyatt Regency in Hangzhou, China, and get accused of shoplifting from a neighboring Louis Vuitton store, then, truly, all the world is merely one big Epcot theme park.

Second, not such a great day, either, for spreading the good word of college hoops. The Georgia Tech-UCLA opener in China has gotten all muddied up. Tech’s Josh Pastner and the Bruins Steve Alford have been dealing with so much bad news overseas that the coaches should be getting sympathy cards from the State Department. 

The Chinese can’t know what to think. At least they now might better understand why there are so many college basketball cynics back home.

Not that they’d be paying much attention to the trials back in the U.S. of Tech’s Pastner. If they did, though, they’d be thinking the same things:

He really should pick his friends better.

And, either Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson are nine-feet tall or that pool in which they are pictured enjoying their alleged impermissible benefit was not nearly large enough to justify the risk. (See the CBSSports.com report). You want to court suspension for a dip in a tricked-up bathtub? Especially when there’s a leisure pool on campus with a 184-foot water slide?

The whole matter arising this week defies understanding in any language.

We shall see where the NCAA and Tech take the allegations by Pastner associate Ron Bell that the Yellow Jackets coach under-reported the violations surrounding Okogie’s and Jackson’s visit with Bell in Arizona. Then there are those other charges by a jilted friend that he had a history of gifting players in Pastner’s behalf.

The facts are murky. On one side you have an accuser whose past includes lengthy jail time and a battle with prescription drug addiction. On the other you have a college coach who has done much to rehab Georgia Tech basketball in just one season.  

The judgments involved are clearly faulty. This is the first really bad look for Pastner in what has been rather charmed beginnings at Tech.

I don’t know Ron Bell from the Liberty Bell, but given even superficial information on his background, isn’t he someone you’d want to keep at least two time zones away from your program and your players?

Can Pastner survive this episode? Surely he can. Other coaches have weathered far worse. We’ll see just how unsavory this all becomes. 

With the suspension of two key players and the cloud this episode cast, the short-term damage to the Pastner Project at Tech is real. A promising season – one which held NCAA tournament ambitions following last season’s run to the NIT Final – has been knocked dizzy before the first countable game.

Pastner is fond of saying there is no margin for error with Tech basketball. That includes the coach’s error in judgment (and that’s the kindest thing you can say about his part in this).  

Meanwhile, their opponent Friday night is dealing with someone far tougher than the NCAA – Chinese police.

Three Bruins were arrested on shoplifting charges, later released on bail. 

If proved, not exactly the crime of the century. It would be more a testimony to the modern athlete’s situational blindness and sense of supreme invincibility and entitlement. And, yes, stupidity, given that you stand out like a silo on a sidewalk, and could hardly wipe your nose and be unnoticed.

Aren’t there plenty of fine stores back in the U.S. from which to pilfer?

From knuckleheads to aggrieved hangers-on, we have not shown our best side to China. The ambassadors have provided a far too accurate look into the bad habits of college basketball.

There still will be a game late Friday night – American time – presuming enough players remain by then to field a competitive 40 minutes.       

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About the Author

Steve Hummer writes sports features for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He covers a wide range of sports and topics.