If the Energizer Bunny ever decides to retire, Georgia Tech men’s basketball head coach Josh Pastner should be considered as the replacement.
Pastner is 38 but shows no signs of impending middle age. There’s no paunch, no slouch and definitely no slowing down. If rebuilding the Georgia Tech basketball program can be done on sheer effort and energy, Pastner will get it done.
Throughout the ACC Operation Basketball event Wednesday, Pastner hopped from station to station on radio row spreading the good news. Even when he was not scheduled to do so, he’d slip into the writer’s work room to shake hands with longtime friends and meet new ones.
His answers were never one or two words, and he had yet to stare a hole through a reporter for asking an uncomfortable question, a tactic that old-school head coaches like Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim have perfected. He did not curse.
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And when the rest of the coaches had cleared out of the interview room, Pastner was still there taking questions. Mike Stamus, Georgia Tech’s sports information director for basketball, even shot a video and posted it online for evidence.
Since his arrival, Pastner has proven that he’s willing to go as hard as he can for as long as he can to get the job done.
“Man, he came in and let us know he’s a really energetic guy,” Georgia Tech senior Quinton Stephens said. “He’s going to demand excellence from everyone on the team and himself. He’s going to do his best to make this team as good as it can get and we’re all going to do it together. So I’m looking forward to it.”
Pastner was hired away from Memphis, where he was 167-73 in seven seasons. He was chosen to help the team return to the glory days of the Bobby Cremins Era, when the team became competitive — and triumphant — in the ACC and rolled out a series of ACC Rookies of the Year and NCAA playoff success. The NCAAs are a distant memory; the Yellow Jackets haven’t been chosen to play there since 2009-10.
He was hired last spring when Brian Gregory was canned after five seasons despite winning 21 games and reaching the third round of the NIT last year. If this was a home remodeling television program, Pastner would be working on a tear-down.
“When I got hired, (then-AD) Mike Bobinski told me that it’s going to take some time,” Pastner said. “He literally told me, ‘We’re going to hit the restart button. We’re going to blow it up, and we’ve got to get it back to where Coach Cremins had it.’ And he said it’s going to take some time.”
So Bobinski asked Pastner to search his heart — the one that seemingly beats at 1,000 revolutions per minute — and determine whether he was able to handle the slog to the top.
“He asked me, ‘Are you going to be able to handle the first couple of years of what you’re going to go through that you’ve never experienced? Because I need someone that’s going to remain very positive, upbeat and accept the challenges as an opportunity,’ ” Pastner said.
He’s asked the same questions of his players and has demanded they be long on effort, even if they might be short on wins. When the team plays a private exhibition game this weekend, the starting lineup will be determined by who totaled the most rebounds during practice. He said the starters for the first exhibition game against Shorter will be determined by the players who tallied the most 50-50 balls during practice.
“Very determined, very demanding, definitely a hard worker, high energy, and just wants the best out of his guys at all times,” senior guard Josh Heath said.