Is Georgia Tech’s hire of Josh Pastner just Paul Hewitt 2.0?


Tell me who this is. I’m in my 30s, headed to not a blue-blood basketball program, but one with some tradition. A program that has reached the Final 4 and has put several players in the NBA. I’m following one of the most successful if the not the most successful coach in my program’s history. I initially get off to a fast start reaching multiple NCAA tournaments early in my tenure. I looked like one of the hottest young coaches in college basketball. I even appear to be an ace recruiter.

Gradually my program peaks, and goes into decline. I have a ridiculous buyout, and the fans turn against me. I’m viewed as a below average Xs and Os coach, and my program’s fanbase counts the days until I leave. Who am I?

If you answered Paul Hewitt head coach at Georgia Tech from 2000-2011 you’d be correct. If you answered brand new Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner, who arrives by way of Memphis (2009-2016) you’d also be correct.

Um… how are Georgia Tech fans supposed to take the hire of Josh Pastner? Haven’t they been through this before with Paul Hewitt?

This is a really tough question, because these two look an awful a lot alike. Is there something Georgia Tech fans can cling to that says they aren’t just hiring something they’ve already seen?

Pastner is young. At only 38, he’s still quite young in coaching years. He won nearly 70% at games at Memphis even if there was a decline in his later years. He’s coached a number of players that ended up in the NBA. Being at Memphis, he should know the southeastern AAU circuit where Georgia Tech will likely recruit from.

Here’s the problem. Pastner at the end of tenure at Memphis was very disliked by the Memphis fanbase who were ready for a change. Comments like this from former Memphis player Shaq Goodwin dont’t inspire a lot of confidence either. 

Q: How is your relationship with Josh?

A: It is bittersweet.

Q: What does that mean?

A: It’s bittersweet, for one, because I know I can’t speak too much or I won’t have a career. (Goodwin laughs). That’s for one. It’s just, it’s up and down.

Q: So it never leveled out, even by your senior year? Where you knew where he was coming from and he knew where you were coming from?

A: Part of me having my best season yet at Memphis (as a senior this year), a part of it was having a better relationship with coach Pastner. If I didn’t, I knew I would have another (bad) season like I did the year before. Then, I watched players, people I was close with like Damien (Wilson), watched Damien leave and I didn’t understand it. Like, why? Then I watched Austin (Nichols) leave and it was just like, ‘What really is the reason? Should I leave?’ After I realized that I was gonna stay, I knew I had to have a relationship with him. I gotta make something work. If I don’t, nobody will. And then I got 14 people watching me. That’s another thing I had to get adjusted to.

Ouch that isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement.

Pastner is certainly not a home run hire for Georgia Tech, but he isn’t just a coach that looks like he will be overwhelmed at this level either ala BC coach Jim Christian.

I think Pastner is capable of bringing in talent to Georgia Tech. That was something previous Georgia Tech head coach Brian Gregory struggled to consistently do. Here’s is the key – Pastner must put together a quality coaching staff – at least 1 or 2 assistants with preferably years of experience coaching at a big-time level. He’s needs Xs and Os guys, that can command the respect of the locker room. I believe Pastner can handle the recruiting part, but as a young coach that’s recently struggled a very solid staff is critical for him.

He doesn’t come in with the pedigree a similarly aged coach like Brad Stephens or Shaka Smart would have.

Pastner is getting another chance let’s see what he does with it.

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