Josh Pastner has been called a coaching prodigy on multiple occasions, especially by the fans and writers in Memphis. If Pastner is a coaching prodigy as suggested, would his Tigers be 5-19 against the Top 25 over the past five years? Would his Tigers have been blown out in six games this year, with three of those taking place in Memphis? Surely, they would have been to at least one Sweet Sixteen by now. But, to give Pastner the benefit of the doubt, let’s blame the lack of postseason success on the players, so we can see if he can keep that “prodigy” tag intact.
The problem with blaming it on the players is recruiting players is supposed to be the one area in which Pastner excels. In 2010, Pastner hauled in the No. 2 ranked recruiting class behind Kentucky with a total of seven players. Five of those players were in the Rivals top 100, with three of those five being born and raised in Memphis. In 2011 Pastner added another Memphis recruit, Adonis Thomas, who was ranked No. 17 by Rivals and given five stars. In 2012 Pastner brought in the No. 23 ranked class, and in 2013 he brought in the No. 3 ranked recruiting class. Are all of these players and recruiting classes overrated? Did they all fail to live up to the hype? Surely, this is not the case. If it was the case, wouldn’t his recruiting acumen need to be questioned?
The players aren’t the problem. Pastner has plenty of talent on his roster, and he has had plenty of talent over the last four years. We also know the Tigers’ problems are not due to lack of fan support or University support. Pastner has a sold out NBA arena for every home game and the salary and resources of deep-pocket boosters. So, support, obviously is not the problem.
The last myth — the one most Tiger fans still believe wholeheartedly — is that Pastner took over a program in shambles, equivalent to the one John Calipari took over in 2000. Tiger fans believe Calipari decimated the program when he left for Kentucky, taking the highly coveted John Wall recruiting class, the secretaries, and even the snow cone machine when he left. The decision to leave for Kentucky was certain to end badly, especially since it was multiplied by the NCAA investigation into Derrick Rose’s SAT score. But, the program wasn’t decimated — Calipari had built it to borderline elite status. Pastner took over a national program with the ability to reach some of the best prospects in the country.
So, help me here, will you? If the Tigers’ problems don’t reside with the players, fans, or University, upon whose shoulders do they rest? If you have the same problems year after year, with defense or turnovers, is your coach really a prodigy? Can Memphis fans really keep blaming John Calipari five years later for the slow “rebuild” Pastner is trying to accomplish? Pastner seems to be given a free pass on just about anything by most Tigers fans. He was even given a free pass by fans and the local press when he fired his own brother-in-law/strength coach, Frank Matrisciano, after a string of poor shooting games by the Tigers. Pastner blamed it on tired legs but Matriciano disagreed and then Matriciano was fired on the spot. The poor shooting continued.
Of course, all of this falls on the shoulders of Pastner. But, that’s the real problem isn’t it? Off the court, Pastner is anything and everything you could hope for in a coach, and in a human being. He is kind, humble, and caring. So much so, that no one wants him to fail or to be the reason for the bad basketball they see on the court.
Check out Part One of Debunking the Josh Pastner myth HERE.