Although Memphis has beaten Ohio State and Louisiana Tech since losing to Texas-Arlington, questions still remain about Josh Pastner as the head coach and the overall direction of the basketball program.
There isn’t a thermometer or some other heat-measuring device that can determine the heat of a coach’s seat, but let’s just say Pastner’s is hot enough for the Twitter account below to exist with its first tweet coming about a year ago.
Josh has had a decent run but it is time for him to go #gotigersgo
— Fire Josh Pastner (@FireJPastner) December 3, 2014
The “Fire Josh Pastner” Twitter account’s thoughts after that loss to Texas-Arlington?
That was a disgrace. Can we please get rid of Pastner now! #GoTigersGo
— Fire Josh Pastner (@FireJPastner) November 24, 2015
Memphis fans are passionate and have high expectations for their basketball program, as the Tigers have been fairly consistent and successful since reaching the NCAA Final back in the 70s. The 80s saw even more wins, with four Sweet Sixteen berths, including a trip to the Final Four, but the real problem for Pastner isn’t even that history.
It’s John Calipari.
Under Calipari, the Tigers reached their peak. While it may be “tainted” and the 2007-2008 season in which Memphis reached the NCAA Final was vacated, Calipari’s nine-year tenure produced a 252-69 record. In his last four seasons with Memphis, Calipari led the Tigers to the Sweet Sixteen in all four, the Elite Eight three times and the Final Four and NCAA Championship game once, while exceeding 33 wins in each season.
Those memories weigh heavy in the minds of the Memphis faithful, and the ghosts follow Pastner everywhere he goes. The noise gets louder not just with each passing season anymore, but each game.
Pastner took over the program when Calipari left for Kentucky in 2009, and has compiled a 151-59 record (4-2 so far this season). During that span, he’s won just two NCAA tournament games in four trips, and failed to make even the NIT last season, marking the first time in 15 years that Memphis has missed the postseason.
Wins and losses are ultimately how coaches are judged because eventually, you are what your record says you are, but they don’t tell the full story.
18-14 last season and no postseason was bad, but the fact that five players from Pastner’s 2013 recruiting class have already transferred is worse, especially when you consider that exodus included his best player: Austin Nichols, who transferred to Virginia.
There is some hope for Pastner as the Lawson brothers, Dedric and K.J., appear to be making headway as freshmen who were both highly-ranked and touted recruits, and more help looks to be in the pipeline.
However, many questions remain.
Will players like the Lawsons buy into Pastner’s program and stay long-term, or leave a la Nichols?
Will Pastner do enough this season to buy more time for us to even find out?
That all remains to be seen, but we do know Tigers fans are running out of patience, as the football team has quietly surpassed their beloved basketball program in terms of relevance.
Trust me, that doesn’t sit well in the Home of the Blues, and wins, not just progress, will be the only thing to cool down Pastner’s seat.