Healthy and with limited stress, Josh Pastner says, ‘I feel like I’m 26′

After getting fired in March 2023, former Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner has found health and a new life as a television analyst, including serving as a studio analyst for Big Ten games on Peacock. Pastner said that "I've had a blast." (NBC Sports)

Credit: NBC Sports

Credit: NBC Sports

After getting fired in March 2023, former Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner has found health and a new life as a television analyst, including serving as a studio analyst for Big Ten games on Peacock. Pastner said that "I've had a blast." (NBC Sports)

It was not long after Josh Pastner was fired as Georgia Tech’s basketball coach last March that he was working out at a gym near his home in Chastain Park. An instructor who knew Pastner approached him, but it was not to express sympathy over losing his job.

“She goes, ‘You look overweight, you look unhealthy,’” Pastner said.

She followed her unsolicited health assessment with an invitation to her spinning class. As Pastner does most everything, he jumped in enthusiastically. At one point, he was going to the hour-long class seven days a week, sometimes twice a day.

“I revolved my whole schedule around my spinning class,” he said. “Like, if somebody wanted to meet or something, I’d say, ‘I can only meet these times because I’ve got spinning.’”

He initially lost about 20 pounds, he said. He is eating healthier and, after 14 years as a head coach (the first seven at Memphis) in which he internalized losses and lived with the consuming, self-inflicted stress of the job, is in a much better emotional and mental state, as well.

“I feel like I’m in real good health,” Pastner said in a long-ranging interview this week with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “Instead of being 46, I feel like I’m 26.”

The improvement in his health, his love for his new job as a TV analyst and other benefits of not being a college basketball head coach – like more time for his family – have led Pastner to a state of mind that he didn’t expect to arrive at a year ago. The man who knew before he was in high school that he wanted to be a coach can envision a future in which he doesn’t have a whistle hanging from his neck.

Said Pastner, “I’ve understood that there’s just a totally different way.”

It doesn’t mean that Pastner won’t listen to overtures or even seek opportunities when the coaching carousel starts to spin in about two weeks. It won’t be a surprise if there’s interest. Schools approached him last March after he was fired by Tech, and he thinks that, had he pushed, he would have gotten the jobs at “a couple schools.” But, upon the counsel of friends, he decided to sit out a year and rejuvenate.

Regardless, he won’t be bent on becoming a coach again.

“I really don’t know in either direction,” Pastner said. “I’m just enjoying each day as it is right now with it and when it gets to March, we’ll cross that bridge.”

Talking about basketball on TV isn’t a bad way to make a living, he has found. Working as an independent contractor, he serves as a game and studio analyst for ESPN and ACC Network, a game analyst for CBS Sports Network, a studio analyst for Peacock and a guest on the Field of 68 podcast. On Saturday, he’ll call a game on ESPN between his alma mater Arizona and Oregon in his first trip back to the McKale Center since 2016.

Calling games, Pastner makes insightful observations, offers in-depth analyses of players, likes to introduce technical terms to viewers and is willing to be critical. He offers commentary with the energy and friendly demeanor that Tech fans are familiar with. He does have a habit of taking too long to make his points, a flaw he’s working on. ACC Network broadcaster Wes Durham, the Falcons play-by-play man and former Tech voice, teamed with Pastner on Saturday’s Boston College-N.C. State game.

“He’s done a really nice job,” Durham told the AJC. “I would expect, if he doesn’t want to coach again, I think he could be really good at this down the road, for sure. He’s already pretty good as it is.”

Said Pastner, “I’ve loved doing television. I’ve absolutely loved it.”

He stays connected to the game and prepares for broadcasts as he would a coach, but when the final horn sounds, he can take off his headset and walk away. He doesn’t have to worry about the result, the transfer portal, recruiting or what win total he needs to reach to keep his job.

That reality particularly hit him after calling a Louisville-Pitt game Feb. 17 in Pittsburgh. Cardinals coach Kenny Payne, a good friend of Pastner’s, is in severe jeopardy of losing his job. Pitt coach Jeff Capel, another friend, is fighting to get the Panthers in the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive year. From his broadcasting spot, he could see the stress that both were under.

“My only stress was, ‘Man, am I going to P.F. Chang’s for dinner or am I going to hit this Italian restaurant?’” he said.

(He went to the Italian restaurant, which was closer. He made heart-smart choices with a salad and a chicken and broccoli dish with marinara sauce.)

Watching games in studio or in arenas, when a player makes a critical mental error or banks in a 3-pointer at the end of the shot clock, the gut-punch feeling comes back to him like a flashback.

“I’m like, ‘Ugh,’” Pastner said. “That’s how I was literally every second during the game, leading up to the game.”

The difference was obvious to N.C. State coach Kevin Keatts when Pastner met with him before Saturday’s game.

“First thing I said when he came back to see me before the game was, ‘Gosh dang, Josh, you look great. What’s your secret? What plan are you on right now?’” Keatts said in a comment provided to the AJC through N.C. State.

Being out of coaching has enabled Pastner to be with his family more. He attended daughter Payten’s middle-school volleyball matches, for instance, events that he previously couldn’t attend because of practice. On a few occasions, Pastner volunteered to serve as a line judge.

“I told someone there when I was doing it, I was like, ‘This is the same anxiety and pressure like I was coaching at Duke,’” he said.

He has seen a few Tech games but not made a point to watch his former team. Pastner considers coach Damon Stoudamire a close friend; Pastner twice hired him as an assistant coach at Memphis. (The two also played for Arizona, Stoudamire far more memorably.) They spoke at length before Stoudamire took the job – Pastner called the conversation “all positive” – but not since. Pastner said he eventually will connect with Stoudamire, but for now wants to keep some separation.

“I think Georgia Tech fans should be really excited about Damon and the future with him and the program,” said Pastner, who added that he had no issue with comments Stoudamire made after a recent loss that “when I get my guys up in here, it’s going to be different.”

Pastner holds no bitterness toward Tech athletic director J Batt for dismissing him. After leading Tech in 2021 to its first ACC title since 1993 – fulfilling his vow to get the Jackets in the NCAA Tournament by his fifth season – Pastner saw the Jackets backslide with seasons of 12-20 and 15-18.

There is context. Stars Moses Wright and Jose Alvarado were deliberate in making their decisions to turn pro after the 2021 season. By the time they decided, potential replacements in the transfer portal had decided to go elsewhere, limiting Pastner’s ability to rebuild the lineup.

Pastner revealed another interesting detail about that chapter. In the year when the NCAA began allowing players to be paid for name, image and likeness deals, both would have been willing to stay for a total that Pastner called “a bargain in this day and age.” However, Tech supporters were not yet organized to step forward to meet their price.

“Obviously, if we knew what we knew now with NIL, there’d have been 500 people lined up to give them what they wanted to make it work,” Pastner said. “And quadruple what they asked for to have them stay.”

And, certainly, baseless accusations made against Pastner in his second season by a man who gained and then violated his friendship – first of NCAA violations and then, sickeningly, of sexual assault – had an incalculable fallout. But Pastner understands the reality of the job.

“We just didn’t win enough,” he said. “I don’t know another way to look at it.”

His life’s path will clarify one way or another in a few weeks. Refreshed and better equipped to coach, he could be a head coach for a third time. Keatts, for one, believes “deep down, he’s probably ready to jump back in and coach a team.”

But he may continue on as an energetic talking head and spinning devotee. He’s good with either.

“I love life,” he said. “I don’t take a second for granted.”

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets head coach Josh Pastner applaud his team during their game against the Georgia Bulldogs at McCamish Pavilion, Tuesday, December 6, 2022, in Atlanta. Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets won 79-77. (Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

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Credit: Jason Getz /