Josh Pastner at work against Virginia.
Photo: Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images
Photo: Ryan M. Kelly/Getty Images

Tech clears Pastner, but the future of his program remains hazy

Josh Pastner has been cleared of sexual misconduct by an investigation commissioned by Georgia Tech. If you’re Tech and especially if you’re Josh Pastner, that’s great news. Had he not been cleared, the Yellow Jackets might well be looking for a new coach. 

The less-good news: Tech basketball is coming off a miserable season, some of that misery stemming from Pastner’s fractured friendship with Ron Bell and Jennifer Pendley, the latter of whom leveled the allegations against the coach in a lawsuit filed after the coach sued them for defamation.

Coming off a heartening Year 1 under Pastner, the Jackets had to confront: Two lawsuits; one Tech-commissioned investigation; two separate NCAA cases, one resulting in the Bell-related suspensions of Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson, the other leading to the resignation of assistant coach Darryl LaBarrie; and injuries to starters Ben Lammers and Jose Alvarado. 

Oh, and the team was 13-19, finishing 13th in the 15-team ACC. Then Okogie bolted for the NBA, leaving Tech without three of its four leading scorers. 

Some of this was bad luck. Bell and Pendley turned out to be friends from hell. The season-opening China trip was marred by a police investigation into shoplifting by UCLA players. Injuries happen. Players leave. The upshot, however, was that the traction gained in Pastner’s Year 1 has been lost. This coach approaches Year 3, always a key time for any coach, with the same low expectations that greeted him on arrival. 

Since October, Tech has had to answer questions about almost everything – suspensions, investigations, lawsuits. With all that afoot, some who work in/around college basketball wondered if Pastner, who was allowed to continue coaching under investigation, had been given a pass by his administration. 

That exceedingly strange chapter is mostly behind him. (Those dueling lawsuits are pending.) The Institute has done its due diligence, and apparently its only action was for athletic director Todd Stansbury to stress to his coach the emphasis of controlling program access. Now, however, comes a more prosaic issue: A coach is paid to win, and Tech winning big remains a distant light.

It’s hard to envision the Okogie-less Jackets being picked above 13th in the ACC. It’s difficult to imagine the 2018-2019 season yielding anything more than a NIT bid, which would leave Pastner entering Year 4 without an NCAA appearance at this school. Lest we forget, Brian Gregory was gone after five seasons.

About the Author

Mark Bradley
Mark Bradley
Mark Bradley has worked for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution since 1984. Prior to that, he worked at the Lexington Herald-Leader for six years. He has...