This past weekend, Josh Pastner was hired as the new head coach of the Tech men’s basketball team. Pastner comes to Tech after seven years as head coach at the University of Memphis. At Memphis, Pastner had 167 wins — winning 70 percent of his games — and made 4 NCAA tournaments in a row from 2011–2014.
At 38 years old, Pastner is now the youngest coach in the ACC and has a reputation as a relentless worker and recruiter. According to Tech athletic director Mike Bobinski, the primary qualities sought in the coaching search were integrity, a desire to be at Tech, a coach with intelligence and great energy and ability to evaluate and attract high level basketball players. Pastner met all of these criteria.
During the press conference, Pastner made clear his desire to coach in Atlanta and lead the Jackets against ACC foes. He also acknowledged the rebuilding challenge the Jackets will face in the next few years.
At Memphis, he was tasked with the challenge of sustaining the success of former Memphis and current Kentucky coach John Calipari. At Tech, he will have the chance to build a coaching legacy of his own.
“One of the things that attracted me here was the chance to build,” Pastner said. “It’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to be a process. We’re going to have to take a step back to go two steps forward.
“We lost a lot. 80 some odd percent of the scoring. Most of the stats are gone, and we’re playing in the best league in the country.”
Pastner is looking to the future to build. Next year is already going to be a tough year for Tech, and with a limited number of scholarships, it would not be surprising to see him recruit conservatively early in his tenure.
There is also a significant philosophical difference between Pastner and Gregory. Pastner runs a high tempo offense that will be a selling point for recruits.
He has coached and recruited many NBA players throughout his time at Memphis and as an assistant at Arizona. Tech was not so long ago a breeding ground for a similar caliber of prospect, and fans hope it returns to form.
Pastner has learned from Hall of Fame coaches, Lute Olsen and Calipari. He will continue to take the knowledge and lessons he learned from them into building the Tech program.
“Eventually, I want to play in a style with great pace and great tempo. I want to have great ball movement and player movement. I think that’s really important. The more we share the ball, I call it hot potato, you catch it and move it,” Pastner said.
“That’s just my personal philosophy. That’s the coaches I’ve grown up to be around. I think that’s a really attractive style of play for prospects. Especially here in Atlanta and the surrounding areas, I think that kids will love playing in that type of style.”
Pastner did comment that he may have to change his philosophies to put next year’s team in position to succeed. For next season, Tech only has six scholarship players returning who saw action last year, and only four of those saw meaningful minutes. There are several question marks for next season, and from conference play the team loses 80 percent of its scoring, 68 percent of its rebounding and five of its seven most played players. Pastner will inherit a team that will be far less experienced than the team former head coach Brian Gregory inherited in his first year where he went a tepid 11-20.
Over the next couple of weeks, Pastner is tasked with building a staff, recruiting not only high school players, but the current players on the Tech team. It is not a given that every Tech player will return for next year. Tech has three recruits signed to letters of intent, which Pastner will look to secure.
It is likely that Pastner’s first few years at Tech will not outwardly signify improvement from the tenures of Paul Hewitt and Brian Gregory. Fundamentally, though, Pastner may have what it takes to distance Tech basketball from a recent legacy of mediocrity.