Josh Pastner calls upon Japanese pottery technique for pregame talk

Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner directs his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Duke in Durham, N.C., Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
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Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner directs his team during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Duke in Durham, N.C., Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Credit: AP

If other coaches aren’t trying to motivate their players by comparing their teams with centuries-old Japanese pottery-repair techniques, maybe they’re just not trying hard enough.

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On Wednesday night, following the Yellow Jackets’ 81-76 road win over Boston College, Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner shared how he had talked to his team Tuesday night about kintsugi, the Japanese art form of mending broken ceramics with lacquer and gold pigment that may date as far as the 16th century. It is related to the Japanese philosophy of finding beauty in imperfection.

“What it means is, the putting it back together is actually more beautiful than the initial vase,” Pastner said. “And that’s what we’ve had to do, and one piece at a time.”

Pastner said he got the idea from a friend in Australia as he was trying to find a message to share with his team.

“And he said, ‘I’ve got something for you,’” Pastner said before telling him about kintsugi.

The Jackets have had their share of damage to repair. Guard Bubba Parham has played in only two games this season and may be out for the season as he comes back from preseason knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee.

Center Rodney Howard is out with an ankle injury. The team had multiple players and staff members go into isolation after testing positive for COVID-19, requiring a team-wide pause that necessitated the postponement of two games.

On the floor, the Jackets have struggled on offense, unable to find the right solution with their missing pieces and inexperience at certain spots. Tech arrived at Conte Forum on Wednesday having lost seven of its past eight games.

“So now we’ve got to pick the pieces up and build the pieces back together and glue ‘em together with gold, and it just makes you that much more appreciative and aware,” Pastner said “And so that was our theme (Tuesday) night. We came out and did that (Wednesday), and really proud of our guys. Great win.”

Going to a smaller, faster lineup and getting a huge lift from little-used guard Tristan Maxwell, who tossed in a career-high 22 points on 7-for-11 shooting from 3-point range, the Jackets set season highs for ACC play in scoring, field-goal percentage (50.9%), 3-pointers and 3-point percentage (11-for-25, 44%) and assists (17). The Jackets won their first ACC game after four losses and, at least for one game, stopped their slide.

Forward Jordan Usher, who said that Pastner “likes to preach and give his analogies and stuff,” was a principal figure as he scored 14 points with five rebounds and four assists as the team’s Princeton offense ran through him in the high post. He had his own appreciation of the win.

“We needed a gutty win to bring us all together, so I’m happy,” he said.

Such was Pastner’s desire to present the idea of kintsugi that he considered breaking a plate from the team hotel and putting it back together. He even thought about bringing along a vase from home before figuring that his wife, Kerri, might not appreciate his attempts at kintsugi.

“I’ve got to go home to see her, so I didn’t want to break the vase,” he said.

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