When a Tiger fan older than 50 starts talking about the Moe Iba era, you know things are bad. Tonight, my Dad was talking about the Moe Iba era.
When a Tiger fan younger than 40 starts talking about the Tic Price era, you know things are bad. Tonight, I was thinking about the Tic Price era.
The Tigers lost to an institution named UT Arlington at FedExForum tonight in front of maybe 5,000 fans. Keeping in mind that the same UT Arlington squad beat Ohio State last week, it was still awfully depressing.
It’s going to be a long year. Quite possibly a Tic Price / Moe Iba kind of year.
Will it be a Larry Finch fired at the hot dog stand type of year?
From the team, it was a frustrating display of missed shots, dejected body language and overall discombobulation.
The Tiger players argued calls, got booed by their own fans, reverted to 1 on 1 moves – and basically choked out the positive vibes left over from the close loss to Oklahoma.
So now we’re left to consider that this team is likely in trouble. That they’re going to have tremendous difficulty scoring and shooting (the two tasks go hand in hand) all year. Left to consider how far the program has fallen – not just since the previous regime, but even since the Joe Jackson / Chris Crawford era.
The crowd was sparse, frustrated and figures to continue shrinking.
Which brings me to the most painful conclusion – that perhaps its time to shake things up in the men’s basketball program at the University of Memphis.
It’s painful to voice this opinion, because I think Josh Pastner actually deserves to continue on as the coach.
What deserves to happen and what needs to happen are two different things.
Pastner is a good man, and in some respects I think he’s a quality coach. His detractors will disagree, but there’s an aspect to his coaching that exudes preparedness. Maybe it’s just the flash cards fooling me, but I’ve always said I think Memphis is more over-coached than under-coached. I still believe that.
Furthermore, in a vacuum Pastner’s record is more than adequate. It’s actually pretty good. 4 NCAA Tournaments in 6 seasons after inheriting a gutted roster. Memphis would probably take heat nationally for replacing him, and they’d deserve it.
Additionally, so much of the culture issue around the Memphis program has nothing to do with Josh Pastner at all. A lot of the negativity facing Pastner stems from his predecessor’s success which fostered unreasonable expectations. Other issues inside of the Memphis administration, impact of boosters, the realities of conference affiliation, the overall state of college athletics…these are all factors that contribute to the difficulty of the Memphis job right now.
So the problems at Memphis go well beyond Josh Pastner.
On the other hand, the environment around the program has really sunk to a low (Iba / Price type stuff). Fan support has dwindled, and the energy is low.
Pastner is an energy guy, so even he would have to admit that it doesn’t appear that the players respond to him. Frankly, in 6+ years it has almost never appeared that the Memphis players respond to Josh Pastner.
Perhaps they do, but it doesn’t appear that way.
I’m not sure if it’s a motivation thing, a leadership thing, or a strategy thing. Like I said before, I think Pastner knows how to coach.
What I am sure of is that something is missing.
People say it would cost a lot of money to buy Pastner out, and while that’s true – it misses the point. Josh Pastner is going to be paid a lot of money either way.
He is either going to get paid to coach, or he is going to get paid not to coach.
I’m suggesting that perhaps the program would be better off paying Josh Pastner not to coach. They could elevate Damon Stoudamire (at his current salary for the remainder of the year) to serve as the interim coach. This would essentially function as a tryout – a chance for Stoudamire to earn the job.
If Stoudamire earns the job (the way Kevin Ollie earned the UConn job a few years ago), great. If he doesn’t, the athletic department can move on at the end of the year.
I think this would be good for Pastner too. He will land on his feet, possibly as an assistant. He’ll continue to learn and grow and prepare himself for another opportunity as a head coach down the road. And he’ll get paid a lot of money. He’s an elite recruiter.
For a cost conscious athletic department, paying Pastner millions to not coach may ultimately dictate hiring a lower cost option as a full time replacement [after all, Memphis doesn’t have the resources like LSU, where apparently they passed the hat (no pun intended) to scrape up $15m in order to fire a highly successful football coach].
But perhaps it’s smarter to take that approach than to continue on in the current toxic environment (which again, I don’t blame Pastner entirely for).
Someone in power has to at least be considering that option.