Georgia Tech’s men’s basketball team followed its first ACC championship since 1993 by finishing second to last in the conference this past season. From that team, which finished 12-20, the Yellow Jackets have lost their two leading scorers in Michael Devoe and Jordan Usher to graduation as well as starting forward Khalid Moore to the transfer portal.
With a young roster that still has four scholarships to fill through the transfer portal, coach Josh Pastner will have a heavy challenge to earn the second NCAA Tournament appearance of his tenure, now going into its seventh year. While athletic director Todd Stansbury acknowledged the past season as “very disappointing,” he is comfortable with Pastner’s leadership of the team and the coming season.
“I think the main thing is, obviously, he’s got a bunch of young players that are really, really good that, because of our situation last year, got a lot of playing time,” he said in an interview with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “So I think we’re really good with his core group of guys, and then he’s going to continue to work the portal.”
Stansbury shared Pastner’s perspective on how the coach’s sixth season at Tech transpired.
The difficulty began last offseason when Moses Wright and Jose Alvarado, as they contemplated either turning professional or returning to Tech for a fifth season, didn’t make their final decision to turn professional until May and July, respectively, at which point most potential veteran replacements in the transfer portal who might have been interested to take their places at Tech already had chosen new teams. As a result, along with a preseason knee injury to guard Bubba Parham that kept him out almost the entire season, Pastner depended on younger players such as center Rodney Howard and guards Deebo Coleman and Deivon Smith perhaps more than he intended.
The timing of Alvarado and Wright’s decisions “just really handcuffed Josh in a lot of ways,” Stansbury said. Once play began, the Jackets played several games in which they led by significant margins before losing. They included losses to North Carolina (nine-point first-half lead), LSU (15-point first-half lead), Notre Dame (eight-point first-half lead), Miami (14-point first-half lead), Syracuse (nine-point first-half lead), Virginia Tech (eight-point first-half lead) and Clemson (13-point second-half lead).
“It was just one of those years where you see that we’re good enough, but we ended up on the wrong side of those games,” Stansbury said. “And then there were some of those close games before the conference (schedule) started that, had they gone our way – and a lot of times it was decided on the last shot – then things totally change as your confidence jells, the team jells, all those types of things. And then I think the other thing is, the ACC as a whole was greatly underestimated as to how good it actually was.”
“And so I think what you always want to make sure is you're making progress, that the student-athletes are making progress, that we're doing it the Georgia Tech way. All those things are important."
- Tech athletic director Todd Stansbury, on coach Josh Pastner's program
After the ACC championship season, Stansbury gave Pastner a three-year extension along with a raise, earning $2.5 million this past season, up from $2.2 million. The contract now runs through the 2025-26 season. Stansbury would not say that the next season is especially important in Pastner’s tenure.
“I think every season’s important,” he said. “And the reason there’s not necessarily a (win total to reach) is because so much of it is momentum and progress and so many things can happen. … And so I think what you always want to make sure is you’re making progress, that the student-athletes are making progress, that we’re doing it the Georgia Tech way. All those things are important.”
Stansbury’s confidence in Pastner appears solid. Stansbury said that, going back to the 2020-21 season (in which Tech won the ACC title and went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010), his job would have been secure even had the Jackets not made the tournament. It was a season that Pastner placed immense pressure on himself to make the tournament, as he had pointed to that season from his hire in 2016 that it would be the year that the Jackets would get back to the NCAA Tournament.
“Because I think all along, I’ve totally agreed with this ‘Get old, stay old’ philosophy,” Stansbury said. “Because of the nature of Georgia Tech, we’re never going to be a one-and-done program. The type of student-athlete that ultimately comes here – and I think Josh’s wheelhouse that we’ve seen, starting with (Josh) Okogie and (Ben) Lammers and now with Jose and Moses, is he knows how to develop players, and of course that takes time, so (firing him) definitely was not even a thought.”