The Arizona connection is once again benefiting former UA player and assistant coach Josh Pastner at Memphis.
Pastner told CBSSports.com Monday that he’s “recommended” the school hire former Arizona star point guard Jason Gardner as his third assistant. That’s just a formality. Gardner will take over from where another former UA great — Damon Stoudamire — left with the Tigers.
Gardner is a former Arizona All-American who has coached the past two seasons as an assistant at Loyola (Chicago).
“I think he’s a good name,” Pastner told CBSSports.com. “And he’ll do a good job.”
Pastner played one season with Gardner at Arizona and was later a part of Lute Olson’s staff that coached Gardner, who is the fourth assistant with Arizona ties that Pastner has hired at Memphis.
The others were Jack Murphy (now head coach at Northern Arizona), Luke Walton (who worked during the NBA lockout last season and is now with the Cleveland Cavaliers) and Stoudamire (who returned to Arizona in May to be an assistant coach).
Gardner told me during the Pac-12 tournament in March that he is fulfilling a goal by being a collegiate-level coach. He spoke to me after he was inducted into the Pac-12’s Hall oF Honor. He is Arizona’s Iron Man, having played the most minutes (4,825) as a Wildcat. He averaged a record 38.5 minutes a game over his 136-game UA career.
“You can become a father figure for these boys,” Gardner told me. “You can help them not just with on-the-court stuff, but also off-the-court issues.
“I think that’s amazing. You’re still involved around the game, just learning and trying to learn as much as possible.”
The fact that Pastner uses his Arizona connections shows how much he feels a bond with the program. Gardner does not have the NBA name power that Stoudamire presented to recruits, but he is a sincere student of the game.
Any player whose jersey number is retired, such as Gardner’s is at Arizona, is worth learning from.
Question is, if another coaching vacancy occurs at Memphis, will Pastner go after his close friend Mike Bibby?