It’s possible that Josh Pastner is not ready to lead this particular Tiger team to a national title. At this point, signs are pointing to another NIT bid if the team doesn’t win the conference tournament in El Paso. So is it time for him to go? Let’s take a look at what history says about the way coaches begin their careers.
A former ACC coach had a rocky beginning as well. In his first year, as a result of a scandal, the school de-emphasized basketball by cutting their regular-season schedule. The team played only 17 games and went 8-9. In 1965, he was famously hanged in effigy on the university campus following a disappointing loss to Wake Forest. But fortunately for North Carolina, they decided to stick with Dean Smith a little longer, and things worked out fairly decently.
A 17-13 inaugural season and a trip to the NIT quarterfinals for another North Carolina school’s head basketball man looked like a promising start, but it was followed by a disappointing 10-17 season, including a 4-10 record in conference. The next season was no better, with the team going 11-17 and 3-11 in the league. But the Duke Athletics department’s display in fortitude by holding onto Mike Kryzewski turned out to be a pretty good choice in the long run.
Marshall University has never really been a college basketball juggernaut, but in 1994-95, they finished at 18-9. The next season they finished at a decent 17-11 clip. At some schools, this would be considered a disappointment, but it was enough for the University of Florida to want to steal their coach away. Unfortunately, he promptly responded by compiling a 27-32 record over his first two years with the Gators. But again, patience prevailed, and Billy Donovan is now one of the most highly regarded coaches in college basketball.
A little closer to home, a coach back in the eighties also struggled during his early tenure. His first two years saw his teams finish with identical records of 13-14 overall and 5-7 in the Metro Conference. The next few years turned out a little better, as Dana Kirk’s Memphis State Tigers became consistent NCAA Tournament participants and even reached the Final Four.
So, as we look back at history, is it really time to get rid of Pastner? Are we being fair in our assessment of his body of work so far? Maybe we can send him off to some other school (who will gladly take him by the way, and probably even pay him more money) where he won’t have to deal with the daily verbal jabs and insults in the newspaper comments and on talk radio. He’s a nice guy – even his detractors say so. Then perhaps we can free ourselves of having to be patient with a young coach and let someone else deal with that situation. We’d be able to keep an eye him with a less biased viewpoint, as he follows in the footsteps of Dean Smith, Mike Kryzewski… or even Dana Kirk, just like he is doing right now.
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