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

Texas offers top-ranked 2020 dual-threat QB Bryce Young
Texas offers top-ranked 2020 dual-threat QB Bryce Young

This sarcastic tweet sums up Lamar Jackson NFL draft criticism perfectly
This sarcastic tweet sums up Lamar Jackson NFL draft criticism perfectly

Lamar Jackson is arguably the most polarizing prospect in the 2018 NFL Draft. Jackson won the Heisman Trophy in 2016 and followed that up with a spectacular 2017, but questions about his style of play at the next level loom. The Ringer’s Rodger Sherman poked some fun at the “red flags” pundits are pointing out about Jackson...
Saquon Barkley posts picture of new daughter Jada Clare Barkley on Instagram
Saquon Barkley posts picture of new daughter Jada Clare Barkley on Instagram

Still got it! Arkansas beats Texas Tech for fifth win against top-5 team this season
Still got it! Arkansas beats Texas Tech for fifth win against top-5 team this season

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Probably should not have needed evidence, but for those who did, take a look at Arkansas baseball Tuesday night. The Diamond Hogs, straight off a 3-game sweep at the hands of Mississippi State in Starkville, dispatched the No. 4 team in the nation, 5-1. Yeah, Dave Van Horn’s team is still good...
WATCH: Josh Rosen “doesn’t care” if he goes No. 1 overall
WATCH: Josh Rosen “doesn’t care” if he goes No. 1 overall

UCLA’s Josh Rosen is among a top group of elite quarterbacks that should go in the first round of the NFL Draft on Thursday. Along with USC’s Sam Darnold, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield and Wyoming’s Josh Allen, Rosen will likely get the opportunity to take the reins of an NFL franchise sooner rather than later. But if...
More Stories