Geoff Calkins: Josh Pastner good at many things for Memphis, just not coaching

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.

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Comments » 24

pcorange writes:

Sounds a lot like a Tennessee football piece from a few weeks ago, huh?

tennrich1 writes:

As has been said for three years now and is louder and louder especially in the national press...RECRUITING IS NOT MEMPHIS' PROBLEM!!!!!! I just feel for some of the recruits that passed up to go to up and coming programs to go to Memphis....Josh is a good guy...he just simply has no discipline on that team...ever...and his x and o is pitiful as well...

CoverOrange writes:

Gee, missed my opportunity three years ago to be a troll on Memphis boards telling everyone how bad Pastner is. But then, I had a life to live.

jamgod writes:

Wonder if that Austin Nichols kid will change his mind and come to Tenn....or did he sign already with them. How would that work anyways, would he have to ask for and be granted a release and then there would probaably be restrictions like "you can't go to Tenn?"

BRUCEpart2 writes:

Maybe Austin Nichols should reconsider his commitment to U of M...Tennessee has one heck of a good coach!

Vol_Jokes writes:

Interesting. The Memphis Commercial Appeal ran this story but looks like one of the trailer park editors over here changed the title. The title was:

"Geoff Calkins: No way for Tigers coach Josh Pastner to spin away the Bahamas"

http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/...

Nice work. Have to wonder what else they change over here. Not good when the editors themselves are making up things. Just in case they try to alter things again...No the Vols won't be playing in the national championship game in football.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Who is this guy Pastetener? JP? who is he anyhow? does he coach somewhere in Tennessee? Memphis ain't in Tennessee!! Is it? Does Memphis have a bball team?

Just kiddin' there Mr. Stokes. Just kiddin' Mr. Nichols. but I DO think we can beat them this year. And not because of Pastner. But for the same reasons we'll take one at knoxville from Kentucky. UT has a great coach(so far). UT has a team that works really hard since Martin's been here. UT plays team ball. UT plays defense. I haven't seen Memphis this year but I don't expect them to fall over when we play them. It'll be a great game as usual.

johnlg00 writes:

I know I was surprised to read of Memphis' losses in the Bahamas tournament, and I have often thought that they have played below their reputed ability on occasion under Pastner, but this piece would have one believe that people are readying the tar, feathers, and rails. Is this a personal thing with Calkins or is this a view shared by others? Someone else said above that this reads like something that might have been written about Dooley over the last several weeks--good guy (according to some) but lousy coach. If this view is common in Memphis, maybe the Vols can soon snag a couple of decent players in that area for a change. That is, if our fans haven't soured them forever on all things Vol with their unceasing slams on all things Memphis.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

Who is this guy Pastetener? JP? who is he anyhow? does he coach somewhere in Tennessee? Memphis ain't in Tennessee!! Is it? Does Memphis have a bball team?

Just kiddin' there Mr. Stokes. Just kiddin' Mr. Nichols. but I DO think we can beat them this year. And not because of Pastner. But for the same reasons we'll take one at knoxville from Kentucky. UT has a great coach(so far). UT has a team that works really hard since Martin's been here. UT plays team ball. UT plays defense. I haven't seen Memphis this year but I don't expect them to fall over when we play them. It'll be a great game as usual.

When UT and Memphis play each other in basketball, the coaches won't have to do much to get their teams fired up. Whatever Pastner's limitations may or may not be as a coach, there is no denying that the Tigers' roster is loaded with talent. It would be a big win for the Vols if they can get it, on many levels.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to johnlg00:

When UT and Memphis play each other in basketball, the coaches won't have to do much to get their teams fired up. Whatever Pastner's limitations may or may not be as a coach, there is no denying that the Tigers' roster is loaded with talent. It would be a big win for the Vols if they can get it, on many levels.

Yep and I hope we don't get ahead of the Oakland game. we really need to win that one this year. If not just for my happiness.

Colliervol writes:

in response to jamgod:

Wonder if that Austin Nichols kid will change his mind and come to Tenn....or did he sign already with them. How would that work anyways, would he have to ask for and be granted a release and then there would probaably be restrictions like "you can't go to Tenn?"

He already signed. Only way he could be released is if they fired Pastner. One has to wonder when he and his dad said part of the decision was based on the thought that the Memphis system "fit Austin's game better". Considering that Pastner has no system and can't coach, one has to wonder what they were looking at. If that "game" includes wandering around aimlessly and playing no defense, then maybe it does.

VolGrad writes:

Very solid win against Oakland tonight. That is how we are supposed to beat that team. Great defense, especially the first half.

Go Vols!!!

Colliervol writes:

Here's another stat that is eye opening. Under Pastner, Memphis has 77 wins I believe. Out of those, ONE came against a Top 50 RPI team. How's that for that notion of a "national" program that they try to sell? If they are unhappy with him now, wait till they get to the Big East. Of course, that's if there are any top 50 teams left in that league when they get there.

usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it writes:

in response to Vol_Jokes:

Interesting. The Memphis Commercial Appeal ran this story but looks like one of the trailer park editors over here changed the title. The title was:

"Geoff Calkins: No way for Tigers coach Josh Pastner to spin away the Bahamas"

http://www.commercialappeal.com/news/...

Nice work. Have to wonder what else they change over here. Not good when the editors themselves are making up things. Just in case they try to alter things again...No the Vols won't be playing in the national championship game in football.

A rather pathetic post. Bottom line is...your coach sucks. And at least OUR FB team has won a NC. When was Memphis' last National title in ANYTHING?......<crickets>

Colliervol writes:

in response to usnavyvolfan__times_free_press_can_shove_it:

A rather pathetic post. Bottom line is...your coach sucks. And at least OUR FB team has won a NC. When was Memphis' last National title in ANYTHING?......<crickets>

Pom squad. They hang banners for that.

Vol_Jokes writes:

The comedy over here. I don't think i'd be insulting coaches at the U of M if I were you. You seem to have forgotten your history. Let's see Bruce Pearl. That one says it all. Lying and cheating was his speciality. Wait there is more. We have Lane Kiffen and let's not forget Coach Dooley. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Pastner may never be a good coach or he still may but we know that Pearl and Kiffen were the worst of the worst when it came to people you could respect. Now stop making yourself look so foolish trying to insult Memphis with your recent history here of failed coaches here. P.S. I hear Kiffen may be available again. Maybe you can get him back for a second go round.

brod writes:

they hired him with no experience. what did the morons expect? maybe he can come help recruit for tennessee next year.

mlynn1 writes:

in response to brod:

they hired him with no experience. what did the morons expect? maybe he can come help recruit for tennessee next year.

Moron, see Vol_Jokes

gbeejr#1354500 writes:

in response to Vol_Jokes:

The comedy over here. I don't think i'd be insulting coaches at the U of M if I were you. You seem to have forgotten your history. Let's see Bruce Pearl. That one says it all. Lying and cheating was his speciality. Wait there is more. We have Lane Kiffen and let's not forget Coach Dooley. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Pastner may never be a good coach or he still may but we know that Pearl and Kiffen were the worst of the worst when it came to people you could respect. Now stop making yourself look so foolish trying to insult Memphis with your recent history here of failed coaches here. P.S. I hear Kiffen may be available again. Maybe you can get him back for a second go round.

Who said anything about insulting the coaches at the U of M (University of Mississippi). The article is about the bb coach at tiger high, aka memphis state. Now there is a school of comedy!!

sly_stone99#434111 writes:

Austin Nichols...how's the view Dude? You're headed to a team where the coach is just a figure head.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Vol_Jokes:

The comedy over here. I don't think i'd be insulting coaches at the U of M if I were you. You seem to have forgotten your history. Let's see Bruce Pearl. That one says it all. Lying and cheating was his speciality. Wait there is more. We have Lane Kiffen and let's not forget Coach Dooley. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black. Pastner may never be a good coach or he still may but we know that Pearl and Kiffen were the worst of the worst when it came to people you could respect. Now stop making yourself look so foolish trying to insult Memphis with your recent history here of failed coaches here. P.S. I hear Kiffen may be available again. Maybe you can get him back for a second go round.

Nobody was insulting Pastner's character. They were merely agreeing with a Memphis writer that he was not a good coach based on the evidence. As for Pearl, nothing he did was more than a secondary violation; he was strung up, and rightly so, for panicking and lying about the BBQ to the NCAA. As for Kiffen, most of us agree that he was, to say the least, not a good fit for the program. As for Dooley, he was not a good coach and may well have had some other personality flaws, but he did not break any rules or laws. So just take your inferiority complex away from here and stop putting words in other people's mouths just because we fans, again, AGREE with one of your local writers that Pastner is not a good coach based on the EVIDENCE.

brod writes:

in response to mlynn1:

Moron, see Vol_Jokes

not sure that i understand your response. i was actually taking up for the guy. does the m in the first character of your name stand for moron?

Vol_Jokes writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Nobody was insulting Pastner's character. They were merely agreeing with a Memphis writer that he was not a good coach based on the evidence. As for Pearl, nothing he did was more than a secondary violation; he was strung up, and rightly so, for panicking and lying about the BBQ to the NCAA. As for Kiffen, most of us agree that he was, to say the least, not a good fit for the program. As for Dooley, he was not a good coach and may well have had some other personality flaws, but he did not break any rules or laws. So just take your inferiority complex away from here and stop putting words in other people's mouths just because we fans, again, AGREE with one of your local writers that Pastner is not a good coach based on the EVIDENCE.

No argument with you Johnlg. Of the few years i've dropped by over here you are one of the few that shows class and common sense. The others are mainly...well. Tenn fans, one of the most obnoxious fan bases in the country. Vol fans are really fun to mess with especially when they enjoy bashing my team so much.

sly_stone99#434111 writes:

Memphis probably should have stayed in ConfUSA. The Big East teams are leaving like rats on a sinking ship. The latest, Louisville to the ACC in 2014.

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