5 questions for new Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 28:  Head coach Josh Pastner of the Memphis Tigers talks with a referee during a timeout in the team's game against the Indiana State Sycamores during the 2014 Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena on November 28, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Memphis won 72-62.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

New Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner will be introduced at a news conference afternoon. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

As the new era of Georgia Tech basketball begins…

Can he recruit with Tech’s academic standards?

Pastner’s recruiting successes are undeniable, but he was also recruiting to a school that had been built into a powerhouse by John Calipari and that was a strong brand in the Memphis, Tenn., area, where he did much of his recruiting.

In part due to the lowered level of play in recent seasons – the Jackets last went to the NCAA tournament in 2010 – Tech isn’t the attraction that it had been at its height under Bobby Cremins and Paul Hewitt.

Further, Tech has more rigorous admissions standards and curriculum than Memphis. According to collegedata.com, the average high-school GPA and ACT score for a freshman at Memphis is 3.38 and 23. At Tech, the averages are 3.95 and 31. He may discover that the scope of players that Tech will accept and that are interested in going to school there may be different. That said, offering ACC basketball and the city of Atlanta may open doors that he previously couldn’t open, also.

What happened the past two seasons?

After five seasons that were highly successful by the standards of almost any team in the country – 130-44 with four consecutive NCAA tournament appearances and two conference championships – Memphis took a header in the past two. The Tigers were 37-29 – still not bad – with no postseason. Recruiting appears to have slowed down and the team has been beset by transfers. His departure was not unwelcome by many Memphis fans.

It may be the case that a fresh start will help Pastner rediscover the methods of his earlier successes.

Can he hold onto Tech’s three signees?

Forwards Romello White (Wheeler High) and Christian Matthews (Fort Washington, Md.) and guard Josh Okogie committed to Tech, but coach Brian Gregory and his staff undoubtedly were part of the draw.

With eight returnees on the roster, only four of whom played significantly this past season, Pastner will need as many bodies as he can.

Can he win over the returnees?

The team had a tight bond with Gregory, evident in players’ effort and team-first mentality even after they started the ACC season 2-8 and the homage they paid to him during the season and after his dismissal. Pastner can point to his previous successes, but more than that is going to have to demonstrate the sort of character and loyalty that earned Gregory the respect and appreciation of his team.

What is he going to do with the staff?

Pastner will not bring his full three-man staff with him from Memphis to Tech. That much is certain because former Memphis assistant Damon Stoudamire took the head-coaching job at Pacific. Further, assistant coach Keelon Lawson is the father of two of Memphis’ players, K.J. and Dedric Lawson and presumably will stay in Memphis. The third, Robert Kirby, has been with Pastner for the past three seasons.

Tech assistant Chad Dollar would seem a possibility to be retained and facilitate the transition. Dollar grew up in Atlanta and has been the team’s strongest recruiter in the state.

 

 


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