Click the play button to listen to the interview with Josh Pastner:
Caught up with former Arizona player and assistant Josh Pastner today, a few days after his Georgia Tech team lost in the NIT championship game against TCU at Madison Square Garden in New York.
Pastner earned ACC Coach of the Year honors with Georgia Tech finishing 21-16 overall and 8-10 in conference play in a season in which he says he took over a “major rebuild job.”
The Yellow Jackets, picked to finish 14th in the ACC, placed 11th with victories over Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse and Florida State.
In my interview with Pastner, we touched on these topics:
— Georgia Tech’s surprising success with the coaching change late in the recruiting process and the Yellow Jackets losing four players.
Pastner touched on some of Georgia Tech’s respectable standing nationally in some statistical categories and mentioned, “We became a good team and I was really proud of our young men. I was proud to be part of it and see it all unfold before my own eyes.”
— How this year’s success impacts recruiting.
“We’ve got to increase our depth,” said Pastner, who is 188-89 in eight years of coaching, the first seven at Memphis. “We’ve got to increase our talent level. That’s all part of what he have to do. This is a major rebuild job … More than recruit, we have to do a great job of evaluating as we move forward. The biggest impact and imprint that we will make from this season will be in the (Class of) 2018 recruiting class.”
— The 20th year anniversary of Arizona’s championship.
“I still say it was the greatest NCAA tournament run in the history of the NCAA tournament, is what we did 20 years ago,” he said. “To be part of that … I don’t think that run gets enough credit … (We beat) three No. 1 seeds.”
— His communication with former Arizona teammates.
He said he talks to many of them and Lute Olson and assistants Jim Rosborough, Phil Johnson and Jessie Evans.
— His victories this season over legendary Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Roy Williams (North Carolina) and Jim Boeheim (Syracuse).
“I think it’s an unbelievable accomplishment, but I mean that’s a credit to the players because they are the ones who got it done,” Pastner said. “It’s honor to coach against those guys because I was growing up watching these guys coach. If you have an opportunity to be on the opposite sidelines it’s pretty cool.”
— The ACC Coach of the Year honor.
“It’s an unbelievable honor to get that in this profession, but it’s a team award, an athletic department award … it’s not my award,” Pastner said. “It’s a great honor. To get that honor in the best basketball league in all of basketball is just an amazing honor. … It’s a team award. It’s strictly about team because it’s the players who are the ones winning the games and the assistant coaches who are the ones doing the game planning.”
— Georgia Tech’s prospects for next season with its three leading scorers returning — Josh Okogie, Ben Lammers and Tadric Jackson.
“We have a couple of good guys coming back,” Pastner said. “We’re going to need to continue to get better. This is a major rebuild job. When I was hired, they gave me a six-year deal and said by Year 4 you have to be in the NIT and by Year 5 you have to be in the NCAA tournament. Just because of the NIT this year it does not change that this is a major rebuild job.”
— Not scheduling a trip to Australia — Pastner and I joke about Arizona’s trip there after winning the championship 20 years ago– but instead playing UCLA in China to open the 2017-18 season.
“It’s on ESPN and it’s against obviously one of the great programs in UCLA,” he said.
Click on the interview above to hear it in its entirety.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.