Josh Pastner is the new basketball coach at Georgia Tech.
His tenure at the University of Memphis had become a proverbial rock and a hard place. After back-to-back 18-14 and 19-15 seasons which saw the Tigers miss both the NCAA & NIT tournaments, it was apparent that the only reason for retaining Pastner for next year was economics. It would have cost the school $10.6M to fire him, and that’s a lot of money for a public university to pay a man not to coach. So we were stuck with each other.
Then along came Georgia Tech. When I went to bed Thursday night I had no idea Pastner was even being courted by another school. But I woke up yesterday morning to news that a dream situation was unfolding in Memphis. By noon, the ink was drying. Georgia Tech had taken Coach Pastner off our hands. Instead of $10.6M, it’s costing the University of Memphis “just” $1.255M to make up the difference in salary over the next two years. (Pastner was making $2.65M/year at Memphis. Georgia Tech isn’t quite paying him that much.)
This is the best thing that could have happened for the University of Memphis. But it’s also the best thing that could have happened for Josh Pastner. Tiger Nation had more or less soured on its coach. (In an arena that seats almost 19,000, last year’s average attendance was just over 6,000.) And I’m sure Josh Pastner had soured on us. Georgia Tech gave him an escape route without having to suffer the ignominy of being fired.
In terms of basketball, Georgia Tech is not Memphis. They don’t have our pedigree. But they do play in what is currently the premiere basketball conference in the nation, the Atlantic Coast Conference. If it’s hard to win in the AAC, try winning in the ACC. So Pastner isn’t necessarily leaving for greener pastures so much as he’s leaving for a fresh start at another Division I school. It’s not really a promotion, but not necessarily a demotion, either.
I honestly wish Josh Pastner the best. He’s a good and decent young man and perhaps his brand will succeed at Georgia Tech. I wish he would have accomplished more at Memphis. Given the level of talent he was able to bring to the table, it’s not unfair to say that with the exception of his first year, Pastner’s teams at Memphis consistently underachieved. And that was the part that became intolerable. But hopefully the move from Memphis to Atlanta will be the shot in the arm Pastner needs. It gives him a chance to start over. It gives Memphis a chance to start over. We all needed a new start.