On Wednesday, the University of Arizona parted ways with head coach Sean Miller after 12-years. Miller and the program have come under both NCAA and FBI scrutiny the last few years for the program’s involvement in the corruption scandal investigation that started back in 2017. Despite standing by Miller for the last four and half years, the administration curiously on Wednesday decided it was time to find a new leader for the program.
While Arizona basketball hasn’t necessarily had the success it’s normally had over the last few years, the job is still regarded as one of the better ones in the country with high potential. That could make it an appealing job to some. That being said, with the possibility of sanctions that could eventually hit the program from the corruption scandal, some coaches may choose not to pursue the job or have their interest in the job significantly lowered. Especially considering the sanctions could get quite severe.
With all that being said, one person whose name may get thrown out for there for the job by college basketball media in the upcoming days is Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner. Why? Let’s take a look.
He’s an alumnus:
The most obvious reason Pastner would be a fit at Arizona and the reason the university would have interest in the 43-year old head coach is first and foremost, he’s an alumnus of the university and the program. Pastner played for the Wildcats from 1996 to 2020 and was a member of their 1997 NCAA Championship team. He also was an assistant coach with the university under head coaches Lute Olson and Kevin O’Neill from 2002 to 2008. With that, he knows the culture and expectations surrounding the program, university, and fanbase which would make him a strong fit.
Being an alumnus is not the end all be all when it comes to college coaching hires but sometimes it does play a notable factor.
Another big reason that Arizona could have an interest in Pastner is his experience in program building. With the sanctions that are likely to come down on the Arizona program in the future, it’s going to be an uphill battle for whoever takes over. While Pastner walked into a great situation at Memphis, taking over for John Calipari. The situation he had with the Yellow Jackets required a full-on rebuild and not an easy one at that. When he took the job back in 2016, he told the administration that within five years he would have the program in the NCAA Tournament. To his credit, he fulfilled that promise this season, leading the program to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in over a decade. There was a lot of frustration for Georgia Tech fans in those four years before this past season, but fans got a strong look at what Pastner’s vision looked like at its best this season. It’s not the greatest program-building effort in college basketball history but for the short time frame, it’s a good one that could make him an intriguing candidate for Arizona.
Recruiting and development:
To build off program building, the most important aspect of program building is recruiting and even more so, development. For Pastner, recruiting has always been a strength of his throughout his coaching career. During his days at Arizona and Memphis as an assistant, he was considered one of the best assistant coaches in terms of recruiting, and as a head coach, he’s been pretty strong at it as well. While the initial results were not there for him at Georgia Tech, the 2021 recruiting cycle has been his best as he brought two top-100 talents in shooting guards Dallan Coleman and Miles Kelly while also landing top-125 player strong forward Jalon Moore. The class ranks 18th overall in the country and fourth in the ACC.
That being said, while his other four recruiting haven’t necessarily been highly regarded in the recruiting rankings, he has done a tremendous job at developing the talent he has landed. His earliest success at Georgia Tech was developing Josh Okogie into a first-round draft pick, but he also developed Jose Alvarado into one of the country’s top point guards and Moses Wright from an unranked prospect coming out to high school into the ACC Player of the Year for this past season. He’s also done great things in the developments of Michael Devoe and Jordan Usher.
Georgia Tech fans may not have been happy with Pastner’s first few recruiting classes with the Jackets and rightfully so. That being said, no one can argue that he hasn’t developed the talent he has assembled. For Arizona’s administration, this would be quite appealing as again with those potential sanctions likely comes A) limited scholarships and B) less appeal for the program on the recruiting trail. Both of those will make recruiting quite hard meaning the talent Arizona does land will need to be developed at a high level if they hope to maintain the success the program is used to. Pastner has shown he can do just that.
Would Pastner even be interested in the job?
This is the biggest question at the end of the day. One has to think that Pastner would at least listen to whatever Arizona tried to pitch towards him if they do choose to make contact with him and show interest. It would be silly not to, especially considering Arizona is a program that could offer a nice little pay bump, head coach Sean Miller was making $2.5 million, Pastner is making $2 million per USA Today. Also as mentioned before, Pastner is an alumnus of the program, for some head coaches out there who played at big-time programs like Pastner, one goal of their coaching career is to one day lead the program they once played for. We don’t know if that’s a goal for Pastner but it would be hard to believe that he never thought about it either.
Overall, this at the end of the day is speculation. The job has been open for less than 24-hours and it will take some time before we find out who Arizona is targeting and if Josh Pastner is one of those candidates. With that being said, CBS’s Sportsline on Wednesday released odds for the next head coach of the Wildcats. Pastner’s name appeared with the third-best odds at +400 behind Pacific head coach Damon Stoudamire at even and Gonzaga assistant Tommy Lloyd at +250.
If you asked us, we don’t think Pastner is headed to Tucson. While it could be appealing for him to coach the program he played for, it also is not an ideal situation to step into at this juncture. On The Flats, he has pretty strong job security, especially after this past season, and could be in line for an extension and pay raise in the next year or so. Additionally, if he continues to coach well at Georgia Tech, better offers will come for the 43-year old head coach. But until we get to that point, Georgia Tech fans probably don’t need to worry about Pastner leaving The Flats.