MEMPHIS - The problem, of course, is that there is nothing Josh Pastner can say.
The Memphis basketball coach has his first radio show of the season Monday night. He'll meet the media at some point, to talk about the crushing Bahamas trip.
But there is no way to spin the disaster. No words to make it all right.
Pastner tried, after the third game of the trip, the too-close-for-comfort win over Northern Iowa. He said it's still early in the season. He said the Tigers were just one missed rebound away from being in a one-possession game with VCU. He said — OK, nobody cares what he said.
That's the problem. Or, one of them.
The Tigers went to the Bahamas for Thanksgiving and all they got was a lousy win over Northern Iowa. They lost to two unranked teams, VCU and Minnesota. They looked miserable in the process.
How bad was it?
Some fans are thinking Pastner should take the names off the front of the jerseys, this time around.
How bad was it?
The only Memphis area recruit who exceeded expectations (Andre Hollins) is the one who decided not to play for Pastner.
How bad was it?
In his post-tournament comments, Pastner joked about "snipers" waiting for him back home.
Which is unfortunate, really. Nobody in this city wants Pastner to fail. He is gracious and generous and honest and warm. In a college basketball world filled with miserable human beings, Pastner is a breath of fresh air.
A Memphis basketball fan texted me Sunday, asked me to "be nice."
"Why?" I texted back.
"I want the good guy to win," she said.
And that about sums it up, doesn't it?
Everyone wants the good guy to win. I want the good guy to win. But after three-plus years in Memphis, the good guy still has no answer for the question people are asking with increasing frequency: Where's the evidence he can coach?
This isn't about X's and O's, either, though plenty would criticize Pastner for his. This is about Pastner's ability to lead and reach and inspire a team.
There are good coaches who press and good coaches who play a slowdown game. There are good coaches who love the zone and good coaches who would never play anything other than man-to-man.
But all good coaches have one thing in common: They get their players to play hard and together and well.
Pastner does not. Or has not, with any consistency. And don't blame the players, either. Pastner recruited every one of them. It is his team, from the first man to the last. There is nobody to hold responsible but the coach.
Of course, what does that even mean at this point? How do you hold Pastner responsible? Nobody is saying there should be a coaching change. At least, not yet. But if the season continues to go off the rails, is it possible that Memphis athletic director Tom Bowen will have some hard decisions to make? Yes, it is. Maybe Pastner should be encouraged to hire an assistant coach with more tactical experience, a former head coach who demands immediate respect.
But that's a discussion for March, not November. There is still a season left to play. The problem is that the season doesn't contain many chances for redemption. There's Louisville and Tennessee, and that's about it. If the Tigers beat Louisville, all will be forgiven. If they lose to Louisville and Tennessee, they may have to win the Conference USA Tournament just to get into the NCAAs.
It all feels grim and deflating. Memphis hosts UT-Martin Thursday night. How does anyone get pumped for that one? The game will be seen as meaningful only if the Tigers somehow lose.
That is what the Bahamas trip has done to the season. The expected joyride has become a dirge.
"We can be a really really good team," said Pastner, ever the optimist.
But everyone is weary of the words.