So the University of Memphis is in search of a new head coach after Josh Pastner took over coaching duties at the Georgia Tech on last Friday. Congratulations to all that made this possible, the fans, the media, constant newspaper articles, even more so after it was decided that he would be here for at least another year. A few weeks ago, the University decided that basically the way that they bank account is set up, they simply couldn’t afford to well, just fire him and leave themselves on the hook for 10.6 million dollars. The only way it could get done was for Josh to take another job and there for he would have forgo the money owed to him. For a while, this is what was believed and it was going to happen, Josh would get another year and everyone would be miserable again and the apathy would continue. I mean why would Josh take another job and give up all the money? I wouldn’t, maybe I’m not in the position to make that statement but if it were me, I wouldn’t have left Memphis off the hook by just taking another job because I want my chips with dip. So with all that being said, Josh decided to leave the University without his dip or chips which to me is kind of telling of the situation and atmosphere surrounding the program. In actuality, he will save them a lot of money and that money he saved them, can be used to try to get a big hire.
Memphis is a great job, people here are crazy about basketball and it shows in a big way. The air waves were lit up Friday all over the city, message boards, social media sports groups and personal pages were jumping with Tiger and Josh Pastner conversations. Most opinions were, thank God, our prayers have been answered, glad that clown is gone, he’s ran out program into the ground, good riddance. A few more opinions were a little rougher so I can’t share that here but just know that people definitely take basketball seriously here and rightfully so. I mean Memphis has been tournament 26 times since 1955, 8 sweet 16 berths and has appeared in the Final Four, 3 times. Worth mentioning though, 1982-1986 were vacated as well as 2008. So it’s apparent that we are a powerhouse when it comes to college basketball. That’s the culture that surrounds college basketball in Memphis, we are on the level of Duke, Kentucky, North Carolina, we deserve more than what we have had with Josh. I thought Josh did an admirable job here and while not maybe up to our expectations, making the tournament 4 out of 7 years is pretty good. I know, I know, it’s not good enough, I mean, Memphis should be in contention for National Championships right? I mean we have been to so many Final 4s and made so many appearances in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 that we should be doing that at least once every 2-3 season’s right?
Could things have been better, sure, one would be naïve not to think that way. The transfers, unpredictable starters/rotations are among the many things that fans say were killing the hoop so to speak. Last season, their best player transferred just a month or 2 prior to players beginning summer workouts. A sometimes starter transferred before that (Nick King) to Alabama for unspecified reasons, I mean something has to be going on right? So many players, Kuran Iverson, Dominic Woodson and so many others, some on their own doing but most, probably just couldn’t take it and they left. Josh only cares about himself I’ve heard, he was all about what you could do for him but once you were used up, that was it. I’ve heard all of that along with other things but that would take forever to write that story. For the most part, Josh did what I thought he would do here, be okay for a while but ultimately, I thought that the expectations placed on him would be his undoing and while it took a little while longer than expected, it happened. I just never saw him not taking his money and just rolling again, odd but it worked out good for Memphis. In the end, it must have been tough for him and his family and he like anyone else, got tired and decided, it has to be a better place for me than here and when Georgia Tech came calling, he made the move. I remember sitting in the crowd at Memphis games during the season and hearing the things like your horrible Josh around me and that’s cool, everyone has an opinion but a lot of times, I was sitting near Coach Pastner’s wife and his young daughter. The things I heard, you wouldn’t believe I’m sure it made her uncomfortable because it made me feel weird as a man. The culmination of things I’m sure had to weigh heavy and it was just too much to lift.
You may not like my thoughts, you may not agree and that’s fine but here it is any way. It’s win win for us and for him because he gets to go somewhere that doesn’t have so much pressure come with it or as he said in his press conference Friday, be as “intense” as it is here. The jubilation and excitement on twitter was crazy Friday as I saw former players taking up for Josh, others leaving post of “well well well” and I will not say his name but all you have to do is look at twitter. If I’m an agent of a coach that maybe looking at the Memphis job, I’m looking at all of it and I’m taking notes. Do I really want this and the atmosphere? Crazy is actually an understatement and it could be a good thing, a coach may say I like that in a city that’s fanatical about it’s basketball. You better win win win, no matter what or it’s going to be, I knew he couldn’t coach, we should have got this person. People will stop going to games to prove a point as it was pretty obvious this year that they did and the fans to me, not only turned on the coach but the players as well. It’s not about the coach to me, it’s about the student athletes and that’s who I felt the sorriest for this year, the seniors, Shaq Goodwin, Avery Woodson while not technically a senior but he graduated, I felt like this year could have been better support wise. The narrative of his interview in the Commercial Appeal pretty much fit the narrative of fans about the program but he did say some telling things about the fans as well. He mentioned going to away games and having 5 fans there and 3 of them not wanting to be there. He said he saw it go from Memphis Madness to not having it all and said that it was crazy, just watching it unfold. How many times can the players hear, hey guys I’m know I’m fighting for my job every game but it’s about wins without it effecting the psyche of the players at some point?
The coaching hire now begins as the administration said, a national search will be conducted and begin immediately but I will say this, I think Memphis is in a tight spot, who do you hire? You don’t want to get it wrong because well, you can’t afford to. I suggest they get started because the guy as most indicate seems to be Greg Marshall at Wichita State and all they are doing is giving Wichita’s people a chance to talk to him and maybe possibly try to add more money to his contract. If he’s the guy, try and get your first choice and not your 3rd, 4th or 5th choice like well, Josh. The risk you run taking a little while to search is that you end up with and up and coming coach or an assistant type or maybe a guy who’s trying to repair an image like well, John Calipari. Marshall would probably kill it here but fans, don’t get your hopes up and don’t get your hopes about Bruce Pearl either. I’ve always thought he was kind of overrated as a coach, Tennessee had a nice team when he was there back a few years ago, I don’t think it was a coincidence that he won with that group. Rah rah, sis boom ba only works for so long and this year he was 11-20 at Auburn so he really doesn’t excite me but hey, whatever floats the boat of those hoping and wishing but who knows, he might take it.I think Memphis ends up with a guy who maybe looking for a fresh start somewhere, maybe a guy like Andy Kennedy. Kennedy, I know has probably exhausted his stay in Oxford and might want to be somewhere else especially in the AAC, a nice conference but not that of the SEC which can be brutal. I could be wrong but we will see but besides Penny and Marshall, who else excites you?
I don’t know how far this goes, I’m just a guy who loves basketball here in the city but coaching candidates, you better know what you getting into at Memphis and I don’t say it negatively, I say it honestly and without any hesitation. Memphis isn’t for the meek and it’s definitely not for anyone in the Josh mold. Recruiting, you better be able to get it done and you better win and do it fast. They may give you a year since it’s so late in the game for recruiting and all but believe me, that following year, you better be in the tournament. That’s another thing, the new coach, doesn’t have much of a recruiting class as their best recruit (Charlie Moore) decided this wasn’t the place for him once Coach Pastner left on Friday. The new coach will have the team’s best player back from last year, Dedric and his brother KJ Lawson who will be a freshman again likely after only appearing in 9 games due to injury. He just had surgery and should be back to 100 percent by start of summer workouts. Alongside those two should be sophomore Jeremiah Martin, Markell Crawford who’s been rumored to be possibly on the outs but his status isn’t determined yet and Nick Marshall, who showed flashes of potential. What does Josh leaving now do to Avery Woodson who decided 2 weeks ago to leave? I heard he’s gone irregardless so maybe not much but hey, it’s thought. Could he come back depending on the coaching hire? What about Penny Hardaway, would he take it?
I’ve been around Penny some, don’t know his thoughts on it but have heard somethings. Bruce Pearl? Hey maybe Penny can be under Pearl on the bench as an assistant, yeah that will work right? I say this to that, for anyone thinking that Penny will be an assistant, I have some beach front property I want to sell you in West Memphis. Do I think he would take the job as the head coach of the program? Yeah maybe so, I mean when you think of Penny, you of think of Memphis basketball. He’s a legend here, he’s revered more than maybe even Elvis Presley and that’s the thing that I don’t ever want to see tarnished. As the Memphis coach, that can happen here especially because the fans are so fickle. Lose a game that you’re not to lose and the nay sayers to Penny will come out on sports talk shows and message boards. The told you so types, see he can’t coach, he just Penny Hardaway and that’s the thing that bothers me about Memphis fans. One minute they love, the next, they hoping you get fired. Not every Memphis fan is like that so I won’t label all however, a large part would be of that feeling. Larry Finch to me was like Penny back in the day. No, I don’t mean talent wise even though he was a big time player but as fixture of Memphis basketball. He played here, played college ball here, turned down the Lakers to stay in Memphis and play semi pro, and coached the Tigers and was very successful before being fired a year after making the tournament. The year before that, he made it to the Sweet Sixteen but none of that mattered to fans. He gave his heart and soul to Memphis, had an opportunity to leave Memphis for a job and he stayed. He was Memphis basketball and what were his results? Well, we know how that story ended and I wouldn’t want that for Penny because he’s too good of a guy for that to happen to. Do I think it would be great for the University, yes yes and once again, yes. Penny can coach and he loves Memphis, it would rejuvenate the program, make people want to come back and support the product and give Memphis a big time hire that it surely needs.
Things are going to be interesting for sure though in these next few days, the rumors, the talks and finally the deal but will it be enough? What if it’s not Marshall, Hardaway, Steve Forbes or Buzz Williams? Will you be upset by it? What if it’s Andy Kennedy or someone like that? What if they have to get an assistant? What if it’s person right up under their nose? Memphis simply can’t get this wrong, or it could set the program back even further. Lots of questions will be answered but I’m sure Tiger fans will be watching when the decision is made on the next Tigers basketball coach. To the future head coach of the program, may the force be with you.