Memphis coach Josh Pastner is believed to be a focus of Georgia Tech’s coaching search and may even be in the process of taking the job, according to a person familiar with the search.
Pastner, 38, has coached at Memphis for seven seasons, winning consistently in the first five seasons of his first head coaching job before the Tigers’ fortunes began to decline in the past two.
The Tigers averaged 26 wins in his first five seasons, peaking with a 31-5 record in 2012-13. They made the NCAA tournament in the 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Memphis won the Conference USA regular-season title twice in that span and the tournament championship three times. In the past two seasons, however, Memphis was 18-14 and 19-15 and missed the postseason altogether.
In fact, there have been calls in Memphis media for Pastner to be fired. The average home attendance was was above 16,000 at its peak but was 11,812 this season. The average turnstile count was just over 6,000, according to the Commercial-Appeal of Memphis, Tenn. There was enough speculation near the end of the season regarding a possible dismissal that the school released a statement announcing his retention and its support of Pastner.
The joint statement from school president M. David Rudd and athletic director Tom Bowen read as follows:
“We have completed our comprehensive review of the men’s basketball program and have concluded that our program operates in a manner consistent with the core values of our University and community, but has fallen short in our on-court performance the last two years. The U of M will make the necessary investments and changes in order that our program may compete at the highest level with Josh Pastner as our coach.”
It was widely speculated that his contract situation, which may sound familiar to Tech fans, was a factor in the decision. He is reportedly owed the full value of his remaining contract, which pays $2.65 million annually, if he is fired. Had it been this season, he would have been owed $10.6 million.
Pastner would bring strong recruiting ability. Starting with the 2010 signing class, his first at Memphis, Pastner signed 10 prospects rated in ESPN’s top 50. Four were in the top 25.
He had 12 players make all-conference, either in Conference USA or the American Athletic Conference, nine of whom he recruited.
Athletic director Mike Bobinski did not respond to a text message late Thursday night seeking confirmation. Earlier Thursday, he had told the Georgia Tech Athletic Association board that the search was “zeroing in on (the right candidate) as we speak.”
Bobinski had projected a timeline of a seven to 14 days at the news conference March 26 when he answered questions regareding Brian Gregory’s dismissal, and Friday will be the 14th full day of the search. Other known candidates included Valparaiso coach Bryce Drew (now at Vanderbilt), Duke assistant coach Jeff Capel, Boston Celtics assistant coach Jay Larranaga, Harvard coach Tommy Amaker and Butler coach Chris Holtmann.