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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Pastner will be sorely missed

    Josh Pastner
    Josh Pastner

    It will surely be strange not to see Josh Pastner on Arizona’s bench next year, standing up and shouting words of instruction and encouragement.

    It will be even stranger for those close to the program not to see Pastner roaming McKale with a cell phone in his ear, always working on making the Wildcats better.

    But with Pastner officially taking an assistant job at Memphis that will be the case for a UA coaching staff that will not a returning a single member from last year’s group.

    Pastner leaving Arizona for a promotion has always been a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if.’ The Wildcats were never going to make him Lute Olson’s successor without getting some experience outside the program, and with an incredible job offered to him and the Wildcats in turmoil this is the perfect time to jump ship.

    Although he’s still got some work to do to become a college head coach, which will happen one day, this day is a long-time coming for a man who has always wanted to coach.

    His final two years of high school and first two in college Pastner used to apply for practically every job that came available.

    He once threw his name in the hat for the Los Angeles Clippers’ head job despite not having any real coaching experience whatsoever.

    “”You just never knew, never knew when someone was going to say, ‘Yes,'”” Pastner said. “”Worst they could say is, ‘No.’ People called me back, though. I made a lot of great contacts doing it.””

    I can only imagine the look on the face of Clippers owner Donald Sterling when some Pastner guy applied for his head job. He must have been thinking something like, “”Have we dropped so far that some kid thinks he has a shot at our job?””

    Pastner has since calmed it down now that he’s become more established in the basketball world with six years as a UA assistant, but at one point he said he “”was talking to everybody”” for the sake of getting his name out.

    Not only has Pastner benefited the UA program greatly in areas such as recruiting, as nearly all recruits mention his name as a reason for becoming a Wildcat, but he has learned a lot from the coaches he has worked under.

    “”Me personally, I’ve been very fortunate I’ve been able to learn from Lute Olson, one of the greats of all time, and I’ve been able to learn from Kevin O’Neill, who’s one of the best in the game,”” Pastner said. “”I think he’s one of the best defensive coaches in the entire game. He’s defensively, I think, he’s just a genius.””

    Now he will have the privilege to learn under Memphis head coach John Calipari, the Naismith National Coach of the Year who’s regarded as year in and year out one of the best coaches in college basketball

    It’s hard to quantify what Arizona will be missing with Pastner, a tireless working with contacts galore in the recruiting world, but here’s what I know about Pastner from the two years I’ve spent with him covering UA basketball.

    The guy’s loyalty is unquestioned. He will never turn against somebody in his department or talk about subjects that are not his direct business.

    In fact, he stayed loyal to the last second, wearing Arizona gear at this weekend’s Cactus Classic in McKale Center.

    In the same vein he’s got to be one of the most accessible coaches in college athletics. He will always call you back, although sometimes at weird times.

    One time he returned a call at midnight after a day of travel only to call back a few hours later while driving to the office. Another time he forgot to return a call immediately but called back at like 4:30 in the morning, as he’s a coach who has no concept of time and apparently no concept of sleep either.

    My former colleague Roman Veytsman sometimes turned his phone off at night so as not to be woken up by Pastner in the middle of the night.

    Even Pastner’s answering machine provides a glimpse of his attitude on life, saying, “”Remember, positive belief is the foundation of all excellence.””

    He knows every detail about what’s going on in the program and has been the Daily Wildcat’s biggest ally on the coaching staff. He often called us up to alert us that a recruit was about to commit, although NCAA rules stipulate he can’t comment on the recruit.

    You’ve got to wonder how the Wildcats will scrape up a roster next year if forward Chase Budinger stays in the NBA Draft and guard Nic Wise transfers, because they would have four scholarships to fill for the class of 2008 and no Pastner to help them do so.

    Pastner, 30, will be a head coach one day, probably sooner than later and has made it eminently clear he hopes he has not coached his last game as a Wildcat.

    With his resume and work ethic, that seems to be only a matter of time.

    Michael Schwartz is a journalism senior. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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