Georgia Tech player personnel director Mario West has been elevated to interim assistant coach. (Danny Karnik/GTAA)
Photo: GTAA
Photo: GTAA

Tech’s Mario West takes ‘leap of faith’ to pursue coaching job

For about a month in the spring of 2018, Georgia Tech men’s basketball coach Josh Pastner granted Mario West the opportunity to be an interim assistant. In that time, West, already on staff as director of player personnel, worked with Yellow Jackets players on the practice court and also was involved in recruiting.

That stint ended when Pastner hired Anthony Wilkins to be the replacement for Tavaras Hardy, who had left Tech to become head coach at Loyola Maryland. But it was enough of a taste to help convince the former Tech guard to make his next move. West is in full pursuit of a coaching job, having left Tech in late March at the end of his third season on Pastner’s staff.

“The ultimate goal would be to get to the NBA, but I’m totally fine with coaching Division I on the men’s or women’s side,” West told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “I just really enjoy working with the players and helping players reach their goals.”

West’s responsibilities expanded in his three seasons, including working with academic advisers, rules compliance, ticketing and leading outreach to former players. He led the team’s community-service projects and relished being a mentor to team members.

“I wanted to give them the blueprint of what I used and how I was able to get through,” he said.

West left his alma mater with no shortage of gratitude. In an interview, he offered thanks to no fewer than 17 current or former athletic department staff, ranging from former coach Paul Hewitt to members of the ticket office, academic advisers, administrators and all five assistant coaches that have served on Pastner’s staff.

The first one he named was Pastner, who hired West despite not knowing him previously and also despite the fact that it was West’s first job after retiring from a playing career that included four NBA seasons, including with the Hawks, and five overseas. He recalled that when he first met Pastner at his introductory news conference, Pastner gave him his cell number and told him to call any time. He hired West a month later.

“I’m truly forever grateful and humbled to have that opportunity,” West said.

This past season, mindful of West’s coaching aspirations, Pastner challenged him to learn how to break down game video to help him develop his skillset. West worked with scouting director Hayden Sheridan to learn that side of the game.

“He was great for me,” Pastner of West. “I loved him. I do love him.”

Pastner also recalled West’s stint as an interim assistant coach.

“He was really good with recruiting,” Pastner said. “He’s incredible on the (practice) floor with player development. I think an NBA team hiring him, he’d be one of the better ones. I think he’d be outstanding.”

West said that during his time as an interim, he enjoyed helping players develop and being able to show them things that he had learned in his playing career.

“From that moment, it was just like I was almost falling in love with basketball from a different aspect,” he said.

West counted himself the fortunate recipient of having a lot of knowledge poured into him.

“I’m adding all that in a bowl,” he said. “You mix that up, you put that in the oven and you come out with something delicious.”

West called his decision to leave the job with no landing spot a “leap of faith.” He and wife Karissa had their first baby in April, Micah Maxwell West.

“Obviously, I know I need more experience, but I need the opportunity,” he said.

He is confident he’ll make it. Given that West’s playing career went from coming to Tech as a walk-on in 2003 to playing 162 NBA games, his determination shouldn’t be underestimated.

“I think the same thing in coaching,” he said. “It’s like, hey, I just have to get an opportunity. As soon as I get the opportunity, I’m confident that I will succeed. I’m determined. The only option is to succeed.”

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