Georgia Tech men's basketball coach Josh Pastner plays in the driveway of his daughters Kamryn (in purple) and Payten (pink). (Photo courtesy Josh Pastner)

Without a team, Tech’s Josh Pastner coaching his kids in the driveway

Even as he keeps himself close to home and waits out the ACC’s cancellation of athletic-related activities, Josh Pastner hasn’t stopped coaching. The Georgia Tech coach has a new team — daughters Payten (9), Kamryn (7) and Harper (4).

“I actually think they’ve got some ability,” Pastner said in a phone interview. “They were kind of getting on me. I was being too hard on them because I was trying to tell them about the bounce pass, the chest pass, you have to catch it with two hands.”

If not for the specter of the coronavirus, Pastner would be on the road recruiting and preparing for offseason workouts. He had, in fact, planned to attend the ACC tournament in Greensboro, N.C., watch signee Tristan Maxwell play in the North Carolina state high school championship on Saturday, go out on road to recruit players in the transfer portal and then possibly return to Greensboro to watch some of the first weekend of the NCAA tournament there.

Instead, he’s bunkered at home with his family, fortunate for a well-paying job that has allowed him to stay home. He ventures outside for runs to the grocery store or to pick up takeout.

With bans on practice and in-person recruiting, Pastner’s work consists of contacting and evaluating recruits and keeping tabs on his players.

“I popped in the office very shortly the other day, but other than that, I’ve been here pretty much,” he said, speaking from his home.

Pastner said that his daughters favor dance, but began to take more of an interest in basketball after Kobe Bryant, his daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash Jan. 26. Learning more about Bryant and Gianna led them to take more interest in the sport that supports their family, Pastner said.

With Pastner having nowhere else to be except home, he and his daughters (he also has a 21-year-old stepson Ethan) have spent time together in their driveway, shooting on their eight-foot goal. As with his other team, defense comes first.

“I could tell the way they were moving their feet, they’re definitely like their dad, which was not good,” Pastner said. “I was a good team defender, not an on-ball defender.”

Pastner has treasured his time at home, an extreme rarity for a vocation in which long hours and constant travel for recruiting and road games are the norm.

In the wake of the helicopter crash, “you don’t forget that in the sense that you’ve got your family – love on ’em, hug on ’em, because you look back a month and a half, that tragic incident, their families were shattered in a split second,” Pastner said. “When you’ve got an opportunity to be at home with your family, you don’t take that for granted.”

With his Yellow Jackets players, he has kept his focus on his players’ health. He said his communications with his players have been about following CDC guidelines and staying safe.

“I haven’t even thought one second about them working out,” Pastner said. “I’m not worried about that at all. There’ll be a time for that later down the road. Right now, my only focus is for them and everyone else to be as safe as can be.”

Pastner expressed his gratitude for those tasked with stopping the spread of COVID-19.

“This is not easy for anybody, but God bless these doctors and scientists and these health workers,” he said. “They’re heroes.”

Still, Pastner is honed in on recruiting, both players in the transfer portal and high-school prospects. With three scholarships available after the departures of transfers Evan Cole, Asanti Price and Kristian Sjolund, Tech will be active in recruiting players, particularly in the frontcourt. With center James Banks having completed his eligibility and Cole transferring, that leaves Moses Wright as the lone returnee among post players. Tech has signed two high-school big men, center Saba Gigiberia and power forward Jordan Meka, but they’ll have plenty of developing and adjusting to do before they can be expected to contribute regularly.

Thus far, the pool of players in the transfer portal has not had much in the way of post players who can clearly contribute. A name to watch is Quinnipiac forward Kevin Marfo, who led Division I in rebounding at 13.3 per game. Pastner has reached out to Marfo, according to a 247Sports report.

“We’ll get who we’re supposed to get,” Pastner said.

Pastner said that the number of transfer-portal players that he and his staff have been in touch with is somewhere between 10 and 50. The search will not focus solely on big men.

“Everybody (in the portal) is alive right now,” Pastner said.

Pastner predicts that, ultimately, there will be 1,200 players in the portal. There are approximately 4,500 Division I scholarship players, and that includes seniors who’ve exhausted their eligibility. There were about 1,100 last year, including walk-ons. It won’t be a surprise if the number rises, given the anticipated change in NCAA legislation permitting every Division I athlete the opportunity to transfer once and compete immediately.

And there are other basketball players to mind. The ones under his roof, for example, shooting on an eight-foot basket. Among his next purchases, he said, might be a regulation goal.

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