3 weeks ago, I fired Josh Pastner after watching Memphis drop a non-conference home game to UT Arlington at FedExForum.
The Tigers haven’t lost since.
They’ve beaten Ohio State, Louisiana Tech, Southeast Missouri and Manhattan. Good teams, these are not.
Yet the most important defeat has come internally, and it may have come the very same night Memphis lost to UT Arlington.
Memphis has destroyed Josh Pastner.
This is a good thing.
I’m not talking, of course, of Josh Pastner the person or Josh Pastner the basketball coach.
Those dudes are still here.
I’m talking about the effervescent, relentlessly optimistic, jumpy, flash card waving, everyone is good-ing, Memphis has the best fans in the whole wide world-ing Josh Pastner.
That dude is gone.
That Josh Pastner hasn’t been at FedExForum the last few games.
I’ve been there, I’ve watched with my own eyes. The guy on the sidelines for Memphis looks defeated, surrendered, relaxed. No relentless clapping, no waving of the arms, very little jumping up and down. The guy roaming the sidelines for Memphis looks as if something has been taken from him.
He looks like a kid at Christmas the first year after being told Santa isn’t real. Sure, he’ll show up for the presents but the magic is gone.
This is a very good thing.
Josh Pastner is a good dude. We all know the stories, and we’re not tired of them. The service calls, the greater perspective, the life lessons. That’s all fine, and it’s good.
But when it comes to basketball coaches in the modern era, the best ones are almost all cynical, ornery and seemingly teetering on the precipice of a major depressive episode.
Think Jim Boeheim, think Rick Pitino, think Tom Izzo.
These guys are never happy or satisfied or pleasant or able to conduct a post-game press conference without epitomizing defeat, regardless of the outcome. Disdain for the questioners, doubt about their own team, relentless scorn.
Boeheim’s team can win by 20 and he attacks the press conference as if he’s a hostile witness testifying in front of Congress.
Pastner has long needed more of this, and judging from his post-game comments last night he’s finally got some:
“It was just ridiculous.”
Music to my ears.
Granted, Pastner was talking about the first half and went on to say positive things about the second half and was courteous the whole time but still, this was after a 32 point win.
Once upon a time this was a guy that would find ways to praise his guys after a 32 point loss.
Maybe Pastner is finally tired of all the bullshit. Maybe he’s finally given up. Maybe he’s finally flashing signs of, dare I say, cynicism and defeat.
I hope so.
Because it looks like a defeated Josh Pastner is a better basketball coach than that other dude.