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Sunday, April 12, 2009

Dan Wolken - Memphis Tigers coach Josh Pastner takes time filling staff

Memphis Tigers coach Josh Pastner takes time filling staff
By Dan Wolken, Memphis Commercial Appeal
Originally published 06:05 p.m., April 12, 2009

Monday afternoon will mark a week on the job for new University of Memphis coach Josh Pastner, but he’s still running the program essentially by himself.

When John Calipari left for Kentucky, he took practically everyone with him including assistant coaches, administrative staff and even his secretary. Pastner, who was surprised to get the job on Monday, immediately went into scramble mode and spent a mostly sleepless first week on the job tending to the current players on the roster and what’s left of Memphis’ recruiting class.

While Pastner acknowledges the need to bring in some assistant coaches – and soon – he said Sunday he hasn’t reached any decisions on a staff.

“I am really taking my time, and I want to be calculated on it and analyze it,” Pastner said. “But I also know I need to get guys sooner than later because I need some help, and I’m aware of that, and I’m in the process of doing that.”

When established head coaches change jobs, they usually just bring their assistants with them and can hit the ground running at the new school. One of the main obstacles for Pastner, 31, is that he’s a first-time head coach trying to assemble a staff from scratch. That’s not as easy as it sounds, especially when there are so many factors to weigh.

Does Pastner want assistant coaches with recruiting ties in certain parts of the country, for instance, or does he attempt to hire someone he’s more familiar with personally? Those are just two of the things Pastner has been thinking about in recent days.

“The most important thing is to get the best staff we can get, and I don’t want to rush,” Pastner said. “I don’t want to take guys just to take guys. It’s the same thing in recruiting. I am not going to take a player just because he’s available if he’s not good enough. I want to make sure guys are good enough whether it’s on the staff or a player for this program.”

Pastner will be able to hire three full-time assistants, a director of basketball operations and then perhaps some other administrative positions. He would like to fill one assistant’s slot with a veteran coach who can give him some guidance, help with scouting reports and run some of the day-to-day aspects of the program in much the same way John Robic did for Calipari.

Pastner would like to fill the other two spots with aggressive recruiters who can go out on the road and help sell players on coming to Memphis.

Pastner said money wouldn’t be an obstacle in pursuing who he wanted for assistants; the previous Memphis staff was among the most well-compensated in the country.

Though Pastner declined to discuss names, one person who could figure in the mix is Miami-Dade Junior College coach Matt Eisele. Memphis signed two Miami-Dade players last fall, forward Will Coleman and wing Darnell Dodson, and Pastner might consider putting Eisele on the staff in some capacity if it helps secure their services next fall.

Though neither Coleman nor Dodson has asked to be released yet from their letters-of-intent, Pastner has already spent time re-recruiting them. The only other recruit Memphis might be able to retain is shooting guard Xavier Henry, who has been released from his letter but listed Memphis with Kansas and Kentucky among his final three choices.

His brother, point guard C.J. Henry, missed all of last season with a foot injury and is awaiting word whether the NCAA would waive the transfer year penalty if he went elsewhere.

If Dodson and Coleman come to Memphis, there are only a handful of players available in the 2009 class that Pastner would likely try to recruit with the notable exception of top-50 forward Latavious Williams. Pastner also will try to get another point guard for next year – especially if C.J. Henry leaves – with the likely target being James Beatty from Miami-Dade.

When Pastner gets his staff assembled, most of the focus will then turn to the 2010 recruiting class. For his sake, hopefully it’s sooner rather than later.

“I don’t want to guarantee anything,” Pastner said, “but I’ll have much more clarity over the next few days of what I want to do.”

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