Timeout with Harsha Sridhar

Photo by Casey Miles

I was listening to Josh Pastner’s radio show earlier this week when I heard a comment from the head coach that piqued my attention.

After Tech narrowly defeated the Syracuse, the head coach got a voicemail from a fan of the Orange. The fan was angry that Jackets fans had taunted Syracuse guard John Gillon with chants of “Airball!” after the graduate student missed a three-pointer by a wide margin early in the game.

These voicemails are probably a staple of every coach’s inbox, likely accompanied by drunken and vague threats and pleas to shift from zone to man defense more often. Most coaches would ignore the message; after all, there are prospects to recruit, film to watch and players to manage.

So Pastner did the opposite. He didn’t just listen to the voicemail and delegate responsibilities to one of the countless staff members at the Georgia Tech Athletic Association whose duty it might be to handle fan interactions.

Pastner called the fan back. In a conversation, he apparently discussed the merits of fandom and collegiate athletics, and the duties of a fan to cheer on his team in his own arena.

“He was definitely surprised that the head coach of Georgia Tech called him back,” said Pastner to the slightly bemused announcer, Andy Demetra. “But I call everyone back.”

Surprised? I’m willing to bet that’s the understatement of the week. Because although Pastner has a lot in common with other coaches, such as his longstanding and intense commitment to the craft, it is plainly obvious that his stint in The Flats will be different from those of their predecessors.

This isn’t to say that Paul Hewitt and Brian Gregory weren’t nice guys, because by all accounts, they were. Hewitt’s success precedes him and Gregory was rarely pictured without a smile on his face. But there is a lot to like about Josh Pastner’s approach.

This is the man who encouraged fans to email him during his homecoming keynote speech. This is the man who has reportedly never cursed in seven years of coaching, and it shows.

This may well be the man who, should the Jackets run the table, leads Tech back to the Big Dance for the first time in more than a decade. Get in touch with him to let him know how you feel. He’ll respond shortly.