We stipulate for the thousandth time: Bell is the definition of friend-from-hell. But he's also the guy Pastner allowed access to two Division I programs and two sets of players in two different cities. Bell followed Pastner here from Memphis. As much as Pastner has tried to insist that he and Bell weren't all that close, there's a mountain of evidence to the contrary. (Read Alan Judd's story for documentation.)
On the night the AJC's Ken Sugiura broke the news that Tech had received a notice of allegations (NOA) from the COI, Pastner offered no comment other than to suggest everything included was old news. It kind of was – the LaBarrie/Carter/Jack story had circulated in basketball circles for a year; Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson had already served Bell-related suspensions – but with the NCAA, nothing is over until the COI has its say.
That came Thursday, and it included the one-year ban, four years of probation, four lost scholarships, the vacating of wins and “a prohibition from scheduling official visits in conjunction with home men’s basketball competitions during the first two years of probation.”
What that last bit means: Pastner can’t say to a recruit, “Come see how wild our crowd is when we play Duke in January.” The best selling point any coach has is hereby denied this coach, who might not last two more years. (Oh, and Jack can’t attend the Duke game, either. He’s banned from Tech events for three years.)
From COI’s summary: “Both sets of violations occurred because men’s basketball coaching staff members invited outside individuals into their program. They permitted these outside individuals to interact with their student-athletes, and those actions resulted in violations.”
Said COI spokesman Joel Maturi: “It goes without saying that adult entertainment has no place in college sports.”
Pastner comes across as a nice guy. He’s a much better coach, tactically speaking, than I’d been led to believe. He has, however, been living off three upsets – over North Carolina, Florida State and Notre Dame – that occurred between New Year’s Eve 2016 and Jan. 28, 2017. Those Jackets made the NIT final, not that anybody remembers NIT finals, and there has been nothing since.
Three seasons have yielded three Tuesday exits from the ACC tournament. Four recruiting cycles have passed without Pastner landing a major recruit – Okogie was a 3-star prospect who committed to Brian Gregory, Pastner’s predecessor – from this state, which just produced the nation’s No. 1 recruit, who signed with Georgia.
For late tuners-in, we should mention that Tech reached the NCAA tournament 10 times under Bobby Cremins and five under Paul Hewitt. Cremins’ 1990 team reached the Final Four. Hewitt’s 2004 Jackets played for the national championship. Over a 25-year span, Tech was a major part of March Madness.
Thursday’s penalties mean that more than a decade will pass without the Jackets gracing the only tournament that matters, which beggars belief. This is the capital city of a state that produces top-shelf talent, and Tech is a member of the conference that plays the best basketball. It shouldn’t be this hard.
Being shamed and slammed by the NCAA makes Pastner’s job even harder. A season targeted as a breakthrough has become a road to nowhere. And now we wonder about Tech. Does it keep making excuses for Pastner, even though Bell was his pal and LaBarrie – handed a three-year show-cause penalty by the COI – his hire? Does it continue to employ a coach who’s 48-53 (before forfeits)? Or does it say to itself, “We’re losing and we’re on probation. Is this really the best we can do?”
Here was Stansbury: “We are disappointed with the severity of the penalties imposed, some of which will have a direct and unfair impact on current student-athletes. We are exploring our options and giving serious consideration on whether to appeal some aspects of the decision.”
Yeah, right. As the COI made clear, it considers the proud Institute a serial offender. Good luck with that appeal.