I’ve liked Josh Pastner ever since the University of Memphis hired him to coach our men’s basketball team almost seven years ago. There was so much promise and potential. Even today I think the world of him. He’s such a fine person and has always given off a positive persona. I’ve wanted so badly for him to succeed at our school. For a time, it appeared that success was indeed his. But here we are in the seventh year of the Pastner era and it is obvious that long-term success will elude us as long as Pastner is the coach. I do not enjoy writing that, nor do I want to be perceived as jumping on the anti-Pastner bandwagon. I have nothing against the young man. But I do want what’s best for the school and the basketball program. I am confident that a bright future is in store for us. But that future will not include Coach Pastner.
Josh Pastner has proven himself a master recruiter. The list of talent that has passed through the university during his tenure is quite long. Unfortunately, that talent never really manifested itself in meaningful wins. I’ve watched plenty of other college basketball coaches accomplish far more with far less, wondering why success has eluded us for so long. True, Cosch Pastner has an impressive record of wins. Unfortunately, the bulk of our wins have come against crappy teams. Wins against good teams, ranked teams, and NCAA tournament teams have proven elusive. In six of his seven seasons, the Memphis Tigers have failed to beat a ranked team. The opportunities have been there. We just haven’t really capitalized on those opportunities. Granted, no one expects you to win all those games. But you do need to win some. We haven’t won any this year, or last.
So now we have a basketball program with plenty of pedigree, but also declining attendance and a revolving door of talented basketball players. Coach Pastner knows how to bring them in, but lately they walk out as quickly as they walk in. The list of solid athletes that have transferred out of the program just in the past two seasons would completely fill a roster. It is staggering. I don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors, why players are leaving en masse, nor why we consistently fail to produce meaningful wins, but I do know that for the resources we invest in basketball, we have every right to expect more.
The sticking point is Paster’s contract. He has four years left on his contract after this season. At $2.65 million a year, that comes to $10.6 million the university would still owe him if we cut him loose. In our wisdom, we did not include a buyout clause in his contract. So we’d be on the hook for the full $10.6 million. And we’d have to pay another basketball coach. We don’t exactly have that kind of money just lying around, and it’s sickening to think about paying that sum of money to a former coach. But we have reached the point that we’ll have to. The basketball program cannot continue to absorb this kind of mediocrity, the empty seats, the revolving door of talent. It cannot go on. Sure, $10.6 million is a lot to have to choke on, but then we have to ask ourselves how much would Pastner cost us if he stayed around another year or two with little hope for success. To me, the program is worth a great deal more than Pastner’s contract. Indeed, the time has come to replace our coach. We cannot afford to continue as we are.