With the news of Josh Pastner’s departure to Georgia Tech, The Daily Helmsman asked its sports editor Omer Yusuf and sports reporters Austin Reynolds and J.T. Mullen their thoughts on why Pastner didn’t succeed at Memphis and potential replacements.
Why didn't Josh Pastner fit at Memphis?
OY: I think one of the biggest factors was Memphis’ move to the American Athletic Conference from Conference USA. The rise in competition level, among other significant factors, showed Pastner’s squad could not compete with the likes of UConn, Cincinnati and SMU on a consistent basis.
AR: With as many transfers as the program has had over the last several years, it's clear that Pastner had all kinds of problems with his players, whether that's recruiting the wrong guys or creating a bad relationship with them once they got here. That's probably the number one reason why it didn't work out for him here.
JM: I think there are many reasons Pastner didn't fit here, but I think the biggest has to be him being a first time head coach at a program as big as Memphis. This job is widely considered at top 25 job in the nation. Handing the reigns over to a 31-year-old, first time head coach was clearly not the best idea.
Who do you think the next coach will be?
OY: If money was no object, I’m fairly certain it would be Witchita State’s Gregg Marshall. However, if Memphis wants to remain serious about football, I don’t think you can invest the kind of money it would require to bring in Marshall. I think they will end of with a second tier guy like Duke assistant Jeff Capel.
AR: Signs seem to point towards Memphis having a shot at Wichita State's Gregg Marshall. It will take a lot of money, but if Memphis is serious about the basketball program they'll do whatever it takes to bring him here.
JM: I'm hoping for Greg Marshall obviously, but the longer this drags on the more I have my doubts. If Marshall does slip away I'm leaning towards guys like Steve Forbes from ETSU or Kermit Davis at MTSU.
Do you think a certain coach will change the trajectory of next season?
OY: Given the state Pastner left Tiger basketball in, I think next year will remain a rebuilding year. I think year two of the new coach’s reign will be more pivotal than next season. Although Marshall could probably steer Memphis into the postseason in year one.
AR: Next season will be a rebuilding year no matter who the coach is, but a big name guy like Gregg Marshall or Buzz Williams could still manage to bring the team back to the postseason and greatly improve the Tigers' long-term outlook.
JM: I think next season is still going to be a rebuild regardless, but depending on the coach it could go a lot smoother. Say you get a Marshall or a Buzz Williams, I think it's a fast turn around. If you do get a Forbes or Davis, I think it'll take a year or two to get back to 20+ wins.
How do you think Pastner will do at Georgia Tech?
OY: Like I mentioned earlier Memphis’ switch from C-USA to the AAC hurt Pastner’s resume. I don’t expect the jump from the AAC to the ACC, probably the best basketball conference in America, to end well for Pastner. I hope I’m wrong, but ultimately I think it ends just like it did here with everybody wanting a fresh start.
AR: Next season he probably won't do well. Georgia Tech is losing almost all of their scoring, and they play in the most difficult conference in college basketball, so next year will probably be rough. However, once Josh gets a couple of seasons under his belt and starts recruiting and getting his guys I could see them becoming a mid-tier ACC team. The conference is probably way too difficult to expect more than that.
JM: I think GT will struggle early because the shape the program is in, but I think GT is a really good fit for Pastner. There is a lot less pressure, he has proven he can recruit the Atlanta area, and has a good amount of resources at JP's disposal. I think it's very possible and likely for Pastner to succeed there. The GT fans just have to give him time to rebuild.
Former University of Memphis coach Josh Pastner (middle) sits alongside his former assistants Damon Stoudamire (left) and Robert Kirby (right) during a game last season.