Josh Pastner is the next Head Coach at Georgia Tech.
Soak it in for a second. Stop laughing. Seriously, stop. There is a lot about Josh Pastner’s time at Memphis to be discussed and what issues he faces at Georgia Tech. Laughing just makes the process of consuming the information much more difficult. Josh Pastner is the new Wizard of Techwood and with it puts Memphis on the clock to find a new Head Coach. Memphis fans and alumni do not seem to mind the exit.
Josh Pastner took over the Memphis program in the wake of John Calipari leaving Memphis for Kentucky. Calipari turned Memphis into a feared, powerful program in Conference USA. Josh Pastner had big shoes to fill as he was replacing a Hall of Fame Coach. Pastner accepted the Memphis Head Coaching job at the age of 30. The Arizona alumnus and former assistant under Lute Olson and then assistant under John Calipari seemed to be on the fast track to success. Pastner’s results at Memphis tell a very different story.
Memphis was a program accustomed to doing great things although there were serious questions and violations surrounding the academic progress, honesty and capability of former student-athletes. Memphis went two straight Elite 8s, the National Championship Game and a Sweet 16 in the four seasons before Pastner took over. Pastner’s first season was a disappointment as Memphis did not even make the NCAA Tournament. Back-to-back exits in the Round of 64 led to questions about whether Pastner was able to win an NCAA Tournament game!
Pastner did finally win a game in the NCAA Tournament with his best team during his tenure at Memphis, but with a record of 31-5 and an undefeated record in Conference USA, reaching the Round of 32 was a disappointment. Getting to the Round of 32 was challenge itself, Memphis was a #6 seed in the 2013 NCAA Tournament and had to hold off Matthew Dellavedova and the St. Mary’s Gaels in a game that was short on offense. Memphis would face #3 seed Michigan State and get summarily dispatched in a 70-48 rout.
Entering the AAC brought new challenges for Pastner as he had to face much tougher conference competition. Pastner’s squad reached the Round of 32 as a #8 seed and survived a tough challenge from a very good George Washington team. Memphis were lambs to the slaughter in the Round of 32 against #1 seed Virginia. This is as high as Memphis was able to get under Pastner.
The decline of Memphis was clear. No postseasons. Losing records in conference play. Inexplicable losses and being completely dominated by regional foes does not help Josh Pastner’s case. Pastner’s ability to win recruiting battles took a major hit in his last three years at Memphis.
The fact that, ‘Hey, guys, I know my job is in jeopardy, but we need to stop worrying about that and worry about the wins.’ But if you say that five times in a week, you know. – Shaquille Goodwin
Inexplicable losses for Memphis this season:
- UT-Arlington (64-68) – KenPom: 101, RPI: 104
- East Carolina (83-84) – KenPom: 209, RPI: 217
- @Tulane (87-94) – KenPom: 219, RPI: 227
- @South Florida (71-80) – KenPom: 237, RPI: 230
The losses that hurt in recruiting this season:
- Ole Miss
- @South Carolina
The Memphis Exodus (since 2014)
- Avery Woodson
- Randall Broddie
- Raquan Mitchell
- Dante Scott
- Jordan Manse
- Nick King
- Kuran Iverson
- Austin Nichols
- D’Marnier Cunningham
- Pookie Powell
Josh Pastner’s Efficiency Ratings
Josh Pastner’s teams were inconsistent on the offensive end, but were effective on the defensive end. However, the team’s defensive efficiency would weaken a bit once they entered the AAC.
In 2015-16, Pastner’s team faced a rather soft schedule that helped make the efficiency metrics look better.
6 of the 19 teams that Memphis held to an offensive efficiency of under 100 were quality opponents. 3 of the 19 teams that Memphis could not hold to an offensive efficiency of under 100 were not quality opponents. When Memphis could not hold an opponent to a defensive efficiency below 93, Memphis was 2-14.
Memphis’ offense this past season was a Paper Tiger (get it?). Of the 18 opponents with a defensive efficiency of 100 or above, 7 of them were opponents that were quality competition. Of the 16 opponents that held Memphis to an offensive efficiency below 100, 6 of them were opponents that were not quality competition. When Memphis could not get an offensive efficiency of 100 or greater, Memphis was 8-9.
Memphis’ Recruiting Under Josh Pastner
Star ratings are not very accurate and are an extremely lazy way to evaluate a recruit and measure the capability of a recruiting class. There are fans that get very worked up over star ratings from recruiting media and treat a Top 10 recruiting class like it is winning a National Championship. This is for those fans.
Josh Pastner can certainly recruit, but he has not done a good job at making sure they stay at Memphis. These recruiting classes point to a program that is a routine Elite 8 program, if looking at the star ratings alone. However, Memphis has been a major disappointment. Recruiting is not everything and it certainly is not the only thing.
One of the best feelings of my life was to feel like I could move forward. The feeling that I can move forward. Not so literal, but I felt like ropes were on my back. Now I just feel free. For four years, I felt like I was playing for something that was unstable. Now I feel like I got a solid foundation to play for, because I’m playing for myself. I know what I’m doing.
And you can check the facts on that. We done had four new (assistant) coaches (in his four years at Memphis). Fifteen transfers. And everything else. And two strength coaches being fired. So you can add all that in there, too. – Shaquille Goodwin
Memphis’ Recruiting and Academic Standards vs. Georgia Tech’s Standards
The Georgia Institute of Technology or Georgia Tech or North Avenue Trade School is a well-regarded academic institution on an international level. The school is known for their STEM research and educational programs. Nobody says they graduated from Georgia Tech, they say that they ‘got out’. The GPAs, workload, social life and tendency for students to drink alone in their rooms is a reason behind this popular saying.
The University of Memphis (formerly Memphis State University) is not a prominent academic and research institution. The institution is a poor public counterbalance to the University of Tennessee – Knoxville.
The difference between the student-athletes that attend Georgia Tech and the students academically is rather great compared to the University of Memphis. An institution with lower standards can easily bring in all talent that qualifies per the NCAA, but at Georgia Tech, it would be far more out of place. In the below chart is a comparison between Football Student-Athletes and the general student population at Georgia Tech, the figures of the Basketball Student-Athletes were not readily available, but should be comparable. The SAT scores represented below are for the Math and Verbal sections of the exam.
In 2015, according to Forbes, the average University of Memphis freshman had scores on their Math and Verbal sections combined to be 1055. This is important because the average University of Memphis freshman is on the same level as a Georgia Tech Football or Basketball Student-Athlete as far as standardized testing. Standardized testing has its flaws, but it is one of the few ways to compare students from different areas of the country and within states.
With the standards higher at Georgia Tech, the quality of student-athlete in the classroom has to reflect that and it is a tough transition from Memphis for Josh Pastner.
Josh Pastner vs. Mark Fox on the Recruiting Trail
After 2012, Mark Fox bested Josh Pastner on the recruiting trail. The last recruit Pastner was able to land that Mark Fox pursued was Shaq Goodwin. In 2010, Jelan Kendrick and Chris Crawford chose Memphis over Georgia.
Fox was able to get Brandon Morris (dismissed from Georgia), Juwan Parker, Derek Ogbeide and Tyree Crump. Pastner will not have the luxury that his predecessor had on the recruiting trail as Fox and his staff have done a much better job connecting with recruits and building relationships with AAU and High School programs in the wake of former President Michael Adams’ exit from the University of Georgia.
Josh Pastner’s Stylistic Philosophy
Pastner is an adherent to the Dribble Drive Motion Offense and he has run it with 4 out 1 in and 3 out 2 in. Pastner’s willing to change his style according to the roster that he has and he is going to have to determine how he wants this offense to operate in the half court. Pastner’s offense will be discussed in much further detail in the Georgia Tech Season Preview set to come out in September.
Pastner mixes it up between Man-to-Man and Zone in his defense. He made one interesting admission on Page 13 of this PDF from a coaching camp that he did back in 2012 at Northern Arizona University. Match-up zone does not seem to be a strength of Pastner’s.
Pastner prefers a fast pace that gives his team more freedom and his motion offense reflects that desire.
Shot Distributions of Pastner Coached Teams at Memphis
Memphis was 51st in the country in percentage of field goals attempted in the restricted arc. Memphis was not a three point heavy team at all, 310th most in the country in percentage of Field Goals from 3 point range. 29.9% of their shots came in transition. They had quite a disparity in transition vs. half court offense, 52.6% effective Field Goal rate in transition and only 43.4% in the half court. This is rather consistent with the shot distributions with previous Memphis teams.
On defense, Memphis has shown a tendency to let opponents score at the rim far more than in any place on the floor. Interior defense and allowance of penetration has been a historic problem for Pastner’s teams. This is something to keep in mind next season when Georgia faces Georgia Tech at McCamish Pavilion.
Georgia Tech was limited as far as money was concerned and was rebuffed at every turn. Landing Pastner provides Georgia Tech with a few days in the College Basketball spotlight, but eventually the recruiting must be done and the development must happen. Georgia Tech has the perception of being a basketball power, but recent seasons have been contrary to this popular thought.
GT will pay $9.2m over 6 years to Pastner, Memphis will pay him $1.4 over 4 years — it’s a $10.6m total contract. Seems like a deal for both
— GT Hot Takes (@GaTechHotTakes) April 8, 2016
Georgia should not be impacted badly by Pastner’s hire. Memphis was stuck with a bad contract and was able to get out of this bad marriage conveniently at the hands of Mike Bobinski. It
may will be something that Clemson’s staff will bring up on the recruiting trail.
Mark Fox is under pressure this season, but the reward of a great season certainly weighs on his mind more than the downside risk of underachieving. Pastner’s impact on recruiting will not be felt in Spring 2016, but the Class of 2017 now has a more aggressive recruiter in the mix from Georgia Tech. It should be noted that Georgia Tech’s 2016 Class was the best class that Brian Gregory had signed in four years.
If Mark Fox is the coach he thinks he is and wants to make Josh Pastner look like the coach many think he is, he has to show that difference in the next two seasons. Fox may not be the one that hurts Pastner the most, it may be Jonas Hayes and his ability to recruit, develop and motivate student-athletes in the frontcourt. Pastner’s past three teams have had trouble there and should face these same issues at Georgia Tech.
Georgia fans should breathe easier that Pastner is the Head Coach at Georgia Tech. The nightmare scenario was Pat Kelsey as he is stylistically like the late Skip Prosser and he would have tried to get many from the old Wake Forest band back together to successfully recruit Georgia and the Carolinas just like in the early-to-mid 2000s when Wake Forest was on top of the ACC.
Then there’s always this exit interview with Shaq Goodwin that just seems so uneasy, the excerpted quotes earlier in this article are from this exit interview. Makes one wish he was in Athens instead so he would not have to feel like that, it is an odd contrast from the way Georgia’s seniors have reacted to their college experiences with Mark Fox.