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Monday, April 06, 2009

Jeff Goodman Fox Sports - Memphis promotes Pastner to lead Tigers


Memphis promotes Pastner to lead Tigers



by Jeff Goodman

Jeff Goodman is a senior college basketball writer for FOXSports.com. He can be reached at GoodmanonFOX@aol.com or check out his blog, Good 'N Plenty.

In a stunning move, Memphis has promoted assistant coach Josh Pastner to replace John Calipari as head coach of its basketball team.

Pastner, 31, spent the last year at Memphis after playing and also coaching at Arizona.

Memphis athletics spokesman Bob Winn says the school will hold a news conference Tuesday to introduce Pastner.

Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson unsuccessfully tried to lure several head coaches before electing to go with Pastner, who is known as a tireless and effective recruiter.

During Pastner's time under former Arizona coach Lute Olson, the Wildcats averaged 23 wins per season, captured two Pac-10 regular season titles, advanced to two NCAA tournament regional finals and made six-straight NCAA tournament appearances.

Pastner was instrumental in bringing several top recruits to Arizona, including Jerryd Bayless, Jordan Hill and Chase Budinger. Whether he can retain Calipari's most recent recruiting class remains to be seen.

In his only season at Memphis, the Tigers finished 33-4 with a Conference USA title and a Sweet 16 appearance.

While in high school and college, Pastner coached AAU squads, following in the footsteps of his father, Hal, an acclaimed AAU coach in Houston, Texas.

Johnson said last week that he planned to hire a new coach who would "wow" Tiger fans — one with head coaching experience. Names that surfaced during the search included Tennessee's Bruce Pearl, Baylor's Scott Drew and Florida State's Leonard Hamilton.

Memphis fought hard to keep Calipari but sought to put the best twist on his departure — saying the successful program he built was attractive enough to land one of the country's top coaches. Officials also boasted that university supporters would come up with plenty of money to pay a new coach.

Calipari was paid $2.3 million a year at Memphis and now has an eight-year contract at Kentucky worth nearly $32 million.

There was no immediate word on a Pastner's salary.

Calls from The Associated Press to Johnson and Alan Graf, a top member of the university's search team and the chief financial officer for FedEx Corp., were not returned Monday.

The move is similar to the one Marquette made last year with Buzz Williams, who was on Tom Crean's staff for one season before Crean left for Indiana. Williams was promoted and led Marquette to the NCAA tournament.

After Calipari left Memphis for Kentucky, Pastner was expected to follow him to Lexington.

Instead, he'll take over a program that has dominated Conference USA and reached the NCAA championship game in 2008.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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