Pastner joins staff at U of M
Basketball recruiter hits ground running
By Dan Wolken
Tuesday, May 13, 2008
Much to the surprise of some friends he's spoken with since accepting the job as assistant coach at the University of Memphis, Josh Pastner would rather do his running in the humidity of the Mid-South than the Arizona desert's dry heat.
"I love it," he said. "You get a better sweat."
And as Pastner proved in his 12 years as a player and assistant at Arizona, he's not afraid to perspire. Regarded as one of the most relentless networkers and recruiters in college basketball, the 30-year old Pastner said Monday he was ready to tackle the newest challenge in his young coaching career.
"I love Tucson; I love Arizona. It's my alma mater," Pastner said. "But I'm going to love Memphis and Tiger basketball. I'm excited. I'm geared up like you wouldn't believe. I'm ready to put my passion and energy right into Memphis."
Though Pastner agreed in principle last week to join coach John Calipari's staff, his hiring was not formally announced until Monday. Pastner was in town Friday to complete the paperwork and was back in Tucson on Monday to begin the transition.
"Obviously I've got to talk to coach Calipari and coach (John) Robic," Pastner said. "There are still some formalities of getting stuff through the president's office and the Board of Regents. But I'm ready to hit the ground running."
Pastner will essentially assume the role of Derek Kellogg, who left last month to become head coach at UMass. Kellogg was the Tigers' ace recruiter, almost omnipresent on the national scene.
Pastner, whose father Hal Pastner runs youth basketball programs in Houston, brings many of the same attributes. In addition to his Texas connections, Pastner was heavily involved in recruiting elite West Coast players like Chase Budinger and Jerryd Bayless to Arizona.
He said Arizona and Memphis are similar in terms of the types of players he'll be expected to recruit.
"They're elite, high-level players that are good kids who are good enough to play in the NBA one day," Pastner said. "There's not much change. You're recruiting the same type of kid: elite-level talent, high character kids that want to win national championships and be good in the community."
Despite the recent tumult involving head coach Lute Olson, who took a leave of absence last season, Pastner said he wasn't actively looking to leave Arizona. He had turned down opportunities within the past year to join the Kentucky and Marquette coaching staffs.
But when he got a call from Calipari to gauge his interest in the job at Memphis, the opportunity to work under and learn from another elite coach immediately intrigued him.
"I'm just the type of guy, nose to the grindstone, getting after it," Pastner said. "You get so focused on your work, you don't even think about other opportunities. When he called, I got that little butterfly feeling and was like, this is pretty darn cool. I had a good feeling right away. (Calipari) makes you feel so comfortable; you're ready to go through a wall for him. That's why he's had the success wherever he's been."
Though Pastner had been a constant face and voice at Arizona since joining the program as a walk-on, he said his departure has been received positively.
"I've got so many great friends, and coach Olson and our (athletic director Jim Livengood) have been so supportive of me," Pastner said. "They didn't want me to go, but they wanted what was best for me and they gave me their blessing."
Reach Dan Wolken at 529-2365; read his blogs on the Tigers at thememphisedge.com.