It is quite possible that Luke Walton may never sit on the University of Memphis bench for a single game, but his hiring has already proven to be a rousing success for the Tigers. Social networking sites such as Twitter were set aflutter with the news, including a tweet from Dick Vitale referencing Pastner as a “rising star” and calling the hire a “very creative and positive move.” The publicity alone represents an immense triumph, and you can bet that if Vitale is singing his praises, the rest of the college basketball world has also taken notice.
Remember how John Calipari perpetually used the NBA angle to lure players during his tenure at Memphis? Josh Pastner has taken the idea a step further. Nevermind rambling on about how you’ve coached in the NBA and know what it takes to get there. How great is it for a potential incoming recruit to be able to speak with a member of the staff that is currently PLAYING in The League? How can a young athlete possibly avoid being overwhelmed as he listens to stories of playing alongside Kobe Bryant or being coached by Phil Jackson? How can he help but notice the championship ring gracing the finger of a man that is trying to recruit him?
Pastner has always been a phenomenal recruiter; that’s why Calipari brought him to Memphis in the first place. But it would have been easy to doubt whether that ability would enable him to bring in top caliber players when he served as the head man. After all, the head coach is often the closer, and the assistants often just follow the guidelines and proven formulas their boss has been using. But there is no doubt now that the U of M’s current coach knows how to get it done on his one. No one should ever question his capacity to be innovative or doubt his unrelenting desire for success.
It remains to be seen if Pastner will be able to coach a team to an elite level. So far, his teams have won exactly zero games in the NCAA tournament, and that particular squad attracted doubters all throughout the regular season. But if this latest move is any indication of what he’s willing to do to get there, there is ample reason for Tiger basketball fans to get excited about the future of the program under his leadership.
Michael Jones covers Tiger Basketball for MemphiSport. You can follow him via Twitter @MemphisMJ.