- By Ken Sugiura
As his team’s bumpy ride through the 2017-18 season continues, Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner has sought to keep the Yellow Jackets’ focus on the next game.
“We have some great opportunities in front of us, got great games in front of us,” he said Wednesday. “We’ll see what we can do to get in the postseason.”
That effort continues Thursday night when Tech plays at Louisville.
Still, in the wake of assistant coach Darryl LaBarrie’s resignation becoming public Tuesday, Pastner acknowledged the obvious, that not having him with the team for the past two months-plus made an impact. LaBarrie had been under NCAA investigation since late November as it looked into an allegation of a rules violation stemming from an incident on an official visit. As the investigation continued, LaBarrie said he resigned “to alleviate one of the many distractions that the team has had to deal with this season.”
It would only make sense that his absence was deeply felt. A basketball team is a small community. Tech’s unit is four coaches (three of them Pastner’s assistants), 16 players and a few support staffers. They are together on a near-daily basis from the time preseason practice begins in late September or early October through the end of the season.
“Just the continuity of keeping things together, whether it was him or anyone else on my staff,” Pastner told the AJC.
The timing wasn’t ideal, either. Tech had just started the season, a grind that already had been disrupted by the trip to China, to say nothing of NCAA suspensions to guards Josh Okogie, Tadric Jackson and Justin Moore and the fury caused by a CBS Sports article in which Pastner was alleged to have known about and tacitly encouraged the impermissible benefits granted Okogie and Jackson.
“He was a big part of everything that we did,” Pastner said. “The way that we do it here, I want everyone to wear multiple hats and to be involved in recruiting and game planning and coaching. My three assistants are going to be involved in all areas of the program.”
Among other duties, LaBarrie worked with the guards, had a major role in the implementation of the Yellow Jackets defense and was a principal recruiter in the state of Georgia. It would be no far-reaching conclusion to believe his absence affected all three.
“Darryl, he did a great job for us,” Pastner said. “He’s an excellent coach, he’s an excellent recruiter, he was great on the floor.”
Tech is 11-12 overall and 4-6 in the ACC. A year ago, the Jackets were 13-10 after 23 games, a difference of only two games, but the feel of the two seasons is markedly different, one a joyride and the other a partnership with Murphy’s Law.
“I don’t know what our record would have been, but there’s no question that we would have had more wins this year if Darryl was there,” Pastner said. “It’s life, but that’s just part of it.”
Pastner promoted recruiting and compliance director Julian Swartz to fill LaBarrie’s role on an interim basis.
“When the season’s completed, I will get with (athletic director) Todd Stansbury and (associate AD) Marvin Lewis and us three will sit and talk and come up with a strategy and a plan (for a full-time replacement),” he said. “We won’t do that until after the season.”
Pastner declined to answer a question about what he knows about the investigation, referring it to athletic department administrators. Still, knowing what he knows about it, Pastner said he would not have a problem recommending LaBarrie for another job.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “Darryl is a fantastic basketball coach, a fantastic recruiter. He’s a very good man.”