Spring is a time of new beginnings. For Memphis basketball fans, there has been two straight long winters. Dark, cold winters, with no Christmas. Nothing to celebrate. Until today. Georgia Tech has hired Josh Pastner to be their new head basketball coach, ending a dire, contract crisis, for the University of Memphis.

 

Photo: Nelson Chenault/US Presswire
Photo: Nelson Chenault/US Presswire

If you have followed MyFantasySportsTalk.com over the last year, you will be somewhat familiar with the rapid fall of the Memphis basketball program. If you are unfamiliar with the situation, I encourage you to read my article, Memphis Basketball: A History of the Fall.

To briefly sum up the situation, over the past two years, Memphis basketball has been declining at a rapid rate. So has attendance. Players are also transferring at a rapid rate. The number is up to ten players in less than two years that have left the program for ONE reason, or another. Josh has also had trouble recruiting as of late. To date, the Tigers have six open scholarships for NEXT season. That number could grow if Dedric Lawson decides to turn pro. The Tigers have had junior college players decommit from Memphis, and hometown players deciding they would rather play for equally as bad programs half-way around the country, than play for Josh. The University also decided to cancel their annual Memphis Madness this year, and did not hold an end-of-the-year banquet because of reported lack of interest.

Then there is the contract situation. Pastner is making $2.65M a year for the next four years. There is no buyout clause. There were two automatic roll over years. There was also a liquidation of damages clause that held the University of Memphis responsible for all $2.65M owed to Pastner annually, even if he was fired, then subsequently hired by another University.

There was also the recent issue of the University’s Athletic Director, Tom Bowen, and Josh Pastner sharing the same agent when his contract extension was negotiated and signed in 2013. While there was no reason to think there was anything illicit with that relationship at the time, it could be considered ignoble, now that we know just how bad this contract was for the University of Memphis, and how good it was for Josh Pastner and his agent.

So the University of Memphis was in the unenviable, and helpless situation of being stuck with a coach that no one wanted, but couldn’t afford to make go away. Everyone had pretty much accepted the fact that next season was going to bad. We would play the game again, and see if the numbers favored us better in 12 months. The only way out of the situation was for someone to hire Pastner away from the University of Memphis. But, who would look at the current state of the Memphis program and think that Josh is the right fit for their basketball program?

Enter Georgia Tech.

After firing Brian Gregory, who went 76-86 as Yellow Jackets head coach, and missing out on Bryce Drew who was hired by Vanderbilt on Wednesday, Georgia Tech aggressively turned their attention to Josh Pastner. Pastner was 167-73 as head coach at Memphis. The Tigers made the NIT in his first year as head coach, but followed that up with four straight trips to the NCAA Tournament.

If the numbers and analysis stop there, Josh Pastner is a Top 10 coach and future Hall-of-Famer. The problem is, the numbers don’t stop there. The truth is, most of that success was a long time ago, in a very poor Conference USA. The rapid slide has sunk even the most loyal Pastner supporters. His record against the Top 25 in seven years was 5-26. If you dig deeper, the record against Top 50 and Top 100, was not satisfactory either. A large portion of those 167 wins came against inferior competition. In the last two years, not only did the number of wins decrease, so did the level of competition.

Add in the factors of decline in recruiting, decline in attendance, and players leaving the basketball program at an alarming rate, Memphis fans could not be happier about the Yellow Jackets hire.

The feel around Memphis today could be described as jubilation. The feeling is similar to that of winning the lottery. The only possible scenario that could have got Memphis out of this bad relationship immediately, was for another suitor to come along. Someone to woo Josh Pastner, and divert mutual heartbreak for all involved.

Memphis fans are also happy for Josh Pastner. Next season was not going to be pleasant for him. If you thought it was hot this year, next year was going to be heat with humidity. So Josh gets a new start in a place that is excited for him to be there.

Although, Josh has jumped out of the Mississippi River that is the American Athletic Conference, and into the Atlantic Ocean that is the ACC. The ACC is a mega-conference. A conference that saw seven teams make the dance this year. Six of those teams made the Sweet 16. Two of them made the Final Four. Brian Gregory never finished higher than 9th in the ACC in his five years at Georgia Tech. Asking Pastner to finish much better than that, in a loaded league, is a tough ask.

So, I know how I feel. The question I would like to know today is, how do Georgia Tech fans feel about it? Some of the reactions I saw on Georgia Tech message boards today were…let’s call it, not happy.

Here is what MyFantasySportsTalk.com‘s own, and Atlanta native, Kezmit Eason had to say about the Josh Pastner hire in her article, Georgia Tech hires Josh Pastner to replace Gregory.

The next step for the University of Memphis is to form a search committee, and find a new coach. The local favorite on the wish list is Wichita State’s Greg Marshall. There is also talk of Jeff Capel, Kermit Davis, and of course, Penny Hardaway.

Coaching searches are almost never fun. Rarely do they end the way you see them ending. Memphis is still facing an uphill battle and a daunting season ahead, regardless of who the coach will be. The one thing that does appear to be the case in Memphis today is, Tiger fans are a lot happier with no coach, than Josh Pastner.

 

Brandon Reid covers NCAAB and the Memphis Tigers for MyFantasySportsTalk.com | Follow Brandon on Twitter @New_Breid

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