Thursday, April 09, 2009
The Bleacher Report - Pouncing on Pastner: How the Memphis Tigers Got Their Guy
Pouncing on Pastner: How the Memphis Tigers Got Their Guy
By John Martin, The Bleacher Report
After John Calipari fled the good ol' Memphis Tigers program, I was compelled to do a few emergency tests.
I checked my pulse.
Promptly at 4:30, I drove around Memphis.
I drove to the University of Memphis.
After completing these three tasks, I finalized a prognosis:
Contrary to my belief, I was still pulsating.
Memphis traffic was still insanely relentless, and yes, the majority of Memphis drivers are still stupid.
The last test's results really shocked me.
The doors were NOT chained shut, the windows were NOT boarded up, and—you won't believe this one—students still roamed around campus.
The University of Memphis was still up and running.
My God, can it be? Is life in Memphis really going on? Is the entire Memphis community not secluded in underground vaults bracing for the imminent apocalypse?
Why, Calipari was the lone man who could keep this city and basketball program relevant! He couldn't leave!
The Memphis media was making sure of it. They sent heavy-duty, armed choppers to hover around his palace. The fans and news were firmly positioned in front of his home, strapped with AK-47s and grenade launchers.
If we couldn't have him, nobody could; Calipari is OUR coach!
(No, the fans didn't have AKs or grenade launchers. There really was a chopper hovering over his home, though. You'd think the guy was a fugitive the way his every move was being tracked.)
Then, in true Calipari fashion, he slithered by the media.
Forgive the snake reference, but Kentucky fans, this is your guy.
With not so much as a word, Josh Pastner and Orlando Antigua led the caravan of vehicles. Calipari was ducking down in the middle of this pack.
Way to address the fans, coach!
The saga was over. The stand-off was done. Calipari took the job at Kentucky, and can you really blame him? But that's not the issue anymore. He's gone. And for a very, very long week, it felt that our program was going with him.
Alan Graf, a huge booster of the Tiger program and VP of FedEx, made the statement (which doesn't look too inaccurate now, although it did for a second) that we were going to make a "WOW" hire.
Several names were thrown into the mix. More than most, I believe, were fabricated and were pure conjecture. As unfair as it may have been, the media was making Memphis look like a desperate little high school girl who just lost her jock boyfriend and was willing to go with anyone to her senior prom.
We stooped as low as to begin CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS with the infamously accredited Scott Drew.
I'm a firm believer that Geoff Calkins is the sole reason that he was not introduced as our head coach yesterday. Thank you, Geoff. Seriously. The guy gets a lot of flack for his articles, but the Scott Drew article he wrote saved this program.
Leonard Hamilton was thrown out there. Consequently, he signed a five-year extension with Florida State. Nobody wanted him here, anyway. By the time he would've gotten down here, he would've been drawing social security.
It began to seem as if coaches were using the University of Memphis as leverage to lure more money out of their own programs. It looked bleaked for these Tigers.
Numerous sources were reporting that the Memphis brass was going to hold open auditions at the Larry Finch Center.
However, as they were preparing the concessions table for the auditions, R.C. Johnson had an idea. And if you're a Memphis fan, you know that when our A.D. has an idea, it's probably a good one.
"Hey, Alan, instead of this whole audition thing, why don't we just call that Pastner kid and see if he's interested? We don't have to shake the whole foundation, you know. He's never coached a day in his life, but something's telling me he's worth a shot."
"R.C, he just started shaving yesterday! He is cute, though."
And that was it. That was the encounter between Alan Graf and R.C. Johnson that set the stage for our new head coach, Joshua Pastner.
The guy was literally packing his bags for Kentucky. He had turned in his vehicle Memphis provided him.
And his phone rang.
Who would've thought that it would've been R.C. Johnson on the other line, not wishing him a safe flight to Kentucky, but welcoming him into the Memphis program once again ... just this time, with a promotion?
Not Josh. Not me. Not most of the Memphis fans.
But I think this move saved the Memphis Tigers. I think this moved saved the city. I think this move saved R.C. Johnson's job.
During his press conference yesterday, I noticed a few things:
He's already coining his signature phrases. I have a feeling we'll be hearing a lot of the "86,400 seconds in a day" and "Five P's" allusions in the coming years.
He's fiery. He wants to stay at the level that the Tigers have inhabited the last five years. And, with the guy's background (which includes two (actually it is just one, but hey, make the guy seem like he walks on water, ed.) national championships at Arizona, one coaching AAU ball, and the other a global championship coaching AAU ball) how can you not believe the guy will continue where Cal left off?
Winning is all this guy knows.
He's got the support of our current players. He's going to get some recruits in here.
And last but not least, I noticed that the Memphis Tigers aren't going anywhere. It may take two or three years, but they're not going anywhere.
Speculate all you want, but the guy is smart, too. He got his degree in two-and-a-half years. Einstein didn't even do that!
Then again, Einstein didn't ever get to the Final Four.
Here's hoping that Josh Pastner, new head coach of the Memphis Tigers, can.