Austin Nichols to leave Memphis
Austin Nichols is by far the most talented player on the Memphis roster and has been for two years. He was born and raised in Memphis. He signed with Memphis after being recruited by Duke, Virginia, Tennessee and others. Now he is the seventh player to leave Josh Pastner’s program in the last year.
“It was in the best interest of my family and I to decide to transfer from the University of Memphis. I want to thank everyone for supporting me in my two years at Memphis. The coaching staff, fans, family and friends. As for me, I think it’s best if I move on from here.”
That was the statement given by Nichols to John Martin of 92.9 ESPN who broke the story Tuesday afternoon. Nichols missed a mandatory team meeting on Monday and was also absent from team workouts on Tuesday. That was the start of this story unfolding and finally culminating into what will be the biggest loss Memphis has suffered in a long time. The timing is particularly bad because you cannot replace your best player in July. It is possible that Nichols was not happy with his NBA prospect ranking as of late. Chad Ford, ESPN Insider had Nichols rated 100 as of last week.
As bad as losing your best player is, the bigger story is why are so many top ranked high school prospects leaving Pastner’s program. Tiger players Nick King and Pookie Powell announced they were leaving Memphis in March. That also drew criticism from Memphis fans and media because King was also from Memphis and was thought to be one of the top three most talented players on the team last season. Seven players in less than a year on top of losing Tarik Black who is now in the NBA. This doesn’t seem to be a talent issue, it seems to be a communication issue. There is a breakdown between coach and player and the one common denominator is Josh Pastner.
There was a lot of fans that cried for Pastner to be let go after this past season. The Tigers had their worst season in 15 years. They finished 18-14, but played an incredibly weak schedule and beat less than a handful of teams in the RPI Top 100. The season was highlighted by home losses to Stephen F. Austin and an exhibition game to cross town Division II Christian Brothers. The few top recruits Pastner has landed, transferred. The talent he has kept hasn’t developed as many believe they should have. There were a couple of reasons why Josh was not let go after this year. Number one, his buyout. It would have cost the Tigers roughly 9 million dollars to let him go. Number two, let’s see what the Lawsons’ can do. Josh landed two of his better recruits of his tenure in Dedric and K.J. Lawson. He landed those recruits partly due to giving their father, Keelon Lawson, a job as an assistant coach on the Tigers staff.
The Tigers should still have a decent year next season but even the most staunch Pastner defenders have to be throwing their hands up at this point. There is definitely a breakdown between player and coach. But Josh ultimately may not survive this blow. Austin Nichols was from Briarcrest High School in Memphis, chose Memphis over Duke and was a fan favorite and star in Memphis. There was no reason for this relationship to not work out. This development leaves fans shocked, upset and looking at you Josh Pastner.
Do you think Josh Pastner should be fired from the University of Memphis? Leave your comments below.
Brandon Reid covers the University of Memphis for MyFantasySportsTalk.com and you can follow him on Twitter @New_Breid
He is from Memphis and graduated from Arkansas State University with a degree in broadcast journalism. He loves the Memphis Tigers, Grizzlies, Titans, and Arkansas State Red Wolves.
“I promise to bring information, insight, and strong opinion. Let the debate begin.”
You can follow Brandon on Twitter @New_Breid