Josh Pastner explains ‘turtle’s speed’ on staff hires

Josh Pastner didn’t run from the rather obvious. From the day of his hire to the day that his second and third assistant coach hires were made official, almost four weeks passed.

“I move on a turtle’s speed with hiring,” he said. “I always take my time on that.”

Pastner’s timing and deliberation appear to have served him well. In assistants Tavaras Hardy, Darryl LaBarrie and Eric Reveno, he has a staff that has a mix of strong suits and recruiting territories.

“I think I’ve done some things good, some things not so good in my time as a head coach,” Pastner said at the ACC spring meetings. “But I think I’ve hired good people.”

Pastner convinced Hardy to leave Georgetown, where he coached for three seasons. LaBarrie, a Tech grad, was on the Georgia State staff for five seasons. Reveno was on the market after being fired after 10 seasons as coach at Portland.

“They’re going to be demanded of the very highest level of excellence, but that’s why I hired them,” Pastner said. “Because I believe that they’ll be able to get it done.”

Pastner knew each of the coaches before hiring them, but he described a search process of due diligence and meticulous effort.

“I’m calling people (for references) that they have no idea who I’m calling,” Pastner said. “Random people that maybe they’ve encountered. I don’t call what’s on their reference list. I don’t do that. I call behind the scenes and really do my homework and we’ve gotten good praise about the guys that we’ve hired.”

Pastner worked closely with Athletic Director Mike Bobinski in putting the staff together. Pastner said he was in communication with Bobinski 15 to 20 times a day to get his input.

“It was important to me that he felt comfortable because I trust his judgment, his foresight, his value on people, and so this was a complete partnership,” he said. “These were not my hires. These were our hires.”

A graduate of Tucker High and Tech who coached with the AAU Atlanta Celtics before coaching at Tech and Georgia State, LaBarrie was a critical hire for his knowledge of Atlanta recruiting circles. Hardy has the experience of building a winning team at Northwestern, a considerable feat given that the Wildcats have never made the NCAA tournament. Reveno has head-coaching experience and is recognized as one of the top coaches for big men in the college game.

“I thought that was very important,” Pastner said. “His ability to develop big men is one of the key components on that.”

Pastner’s run at Memphis was mixed — he had a winning percentage of .696 and went to four consecutive NCAA tournaments, but the Tigers missed the postseason in his final three seasons. One strength of his, though, was hiring assistants. Five of them have become head coaches.

That includes recently hired Lakers coach Luke Walton. In 2011, when Walton was still playing professionally, Pastner hired him as an assistant during the NBA lockout in part to help his former Arizona teammate gauge if he ultimately wanted to coach. Walton left the team in December when the lockout ended.

“I think all three of our guys will be head coaches in the future,” Pastner said.