Men's Basketball

Pastner wants energy from Yellow Jackets

New Georgia Tech men’s basketball head coach Josh Pastner feels a lot more optimistic now about the Yellow Jackets than he did in the spring.
New Georgia Tech men’s basketball head coach Josh Pastner feels a lot more optimistic now about the Yellow Jackets than he did in the spring. AP

Georgia Tech men’s basketball head coach Josh Pastner won’t even verbalize what he thought the first time he got together with his new team at its first workout last spring.

It wasn’t good.

But after a spending time with the team and having the summer to implement his system, the first-year head coach is pleased with the Yellow Jackets’ progress.

“When I first saw them on campus, compared to where they are now, it’s night and day,” Pastner said. “They’ve come a long way to (this) point.”

However …

“We’re a team that’s a work in progress. It’s going to take some time. We need to get better every day.”

Pastner takes over after spending seven successful seasons at Memphis, where he went 167-73. He replaces Brian Gregory, who took the Yellow Jackets to the third round of the National Invitation Tournament last year and won 21 games but was fired by then-athletics director Mike Bobinski.

In his first year, Pastner is most likely to field a team with a high motor and a low ceiling.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do, a long way to go,” he said. “We’ve got a good group of young men, they’ve got a high care factor, but we’ve got a lot of work to do in a short amount of time.”

A couple of Gregory’s recruits weren’t able to get in school, and Pastner was already behind the eight ball as far as recruiting. He is left with seven lettermen, three true freshmen, a couple of graduate transfers and a couple of big men who were redshirted last year.

Gone are four-year starter Marcus Georges-Hunt, double-double machine Charles Mitchell, 3-point ace Adam Smith and forward Nick Jacobs. Travis Jorgenson decided to leave the program.

The returning regulars are wing Quinton Stephens, the top returning scorer at 5.0 points, guard Tadric Jackson, center Ben Lammers and point guard Corey Heyward. Redshirted last year were 6-foot-9 Abdoulaye Gueye and 6-10 Sylvester Ogbonda.

The incoming freshmen are: Christian Matthews, a high-scoring wing; Justin Moore, a point guard who originally signed with Tulane; and Josh Okogie, an all-state guard from Shiloh who was an early signee by Gregory.

The graduate transfers are three-point shooting forward Kellen McCormick from Western Michigan, and Jodan Price, a wing who played at DePaul and Eastern Michigan.

Pastner has centered most of his attention on the offensive side of the ball.

“My focus has been on how valuable the basketball is and how to find ways to score,” he said. “I’ve always been a big believer in defense. Because we’ve had so much to do on offense, I haven’t done enough at this point.”

Pastner is a high energy coach. He can’t keep still, and he wants his team to carry that over to the court.

“I’m an energy guy. I want them to play with great positive energy,” Pastner said. “If you need to be coddled or enabled, then maybe I’m not the best guy for you. I’m not good at that. Guys I’m most aligned with are driven.”

The Yellow Jackets open the season on Nov. 11 against Tennessee Tech at McCamish Pavilion, the first of five straight home games. They host Georgia on Dec. 20 and open the ACC schedule at home on New Year’s Eve against North Carolina.