Tag Archives: Shaq Goodwin

Exclusive Q&A With Josh Pastner

“You’re walking through a hallway and there’s a crack of light because the window’s barely open. And the light is coming through that crack and you’re either gonna walk by it, or you see the light and you find a way to maneuver – open that window more to get through it.”
– Josh Pastner, (2/12/15)
Head Coach – University of Memphis

Josh Pastner’s Memphis Tiger basketball team is 14-10. They’ve lost 2 games in a row and 3 of their last 4. His best player is sidelined with an injury. Pastner is in the final month of his 6th season as head coach at the school and has yet to produce the kind of magical NCAA tournament run that relieves pressure on coaches at schools like Memphis.

So what was Pastner doing at 2:15pm on a Thursday in February?

Naturally, he was granting a 20-minute interview to a fledgling blogger.

Naturally.

That’s who Josh Pastner is.

Here’s what he had to say:

Q: Do you ever say no to a request for a favor? Or are you pretty much anything goes?

A: I do the very best I can to accommodate all. If it helps another fellow human being I try to do the very best I can.

Q: That’s one of the things I’m curious about. You’ve talked about paying it forward. It’s not a brand new concept, but you really seem to do it better than most people. Or at least it seems to be your philosophy. Where did you learn to live this way? Where did it first come to you?

A: You know Jay, first of all one of my favorite movies of all time is Pay it Forward. Secondly, I always believe how you give is what you get. If you give good energy and you give good positive thoughts and you wish people good will – usually that’s what you get in return. Not in monetary stuff or accolades, it’s not about that. Just reciprocating positive energy back your way. Or good feelings your way, or you feel better inside. So you know, I think I’ve just been that way in my life. I don’t have a motive or an intent to pay it forward. I just do it because I believe it’s the right thing to do, the principled thing to do.

Q: Is that where you learned it though, a movie?

A: No, that’s not where I learned it. I’ve always been a guy that has seen the goodness of human beings, has seen the goodness of people and tried to…I believe in treating people the right way. The whole basis of my program that we run here is an attitude of gratitude. Having an appreciation, not an entitlement and that’s the way I try to live my life.

Q: And I don’t want to dig too deep, because I respect that’s just how you are. But is that something you developed as a kid or were you born with it?

A: You know, probably as a kid growing up. I always tried to be kind to people. That’s just kind of how I was raised, but also that’s just my personal belief. It’s my fabric. You know, probably the best compliment I’ve gotten from people is I’m the same guy when I was a walk on at Arizona, or on the Freshman ‘B’ team at Kingwood High School, as video coordinator at Arizona, assistant coach at Memphis or the Head Coach at Memphis. I’m the same guy. I’m the same human being and I try to remain that way and treat people the right way throughout the entire time regardless of anything in between.

Q: Do people take advantage of it? Is there a strange request that you’ve gotten or a funny story?

A: I think one of the great things about being the head coach of the Tigers, which I recognize, is it’s not me. It’s not Josh Pastner. It’s the person in the seat. So Jay, if you were sitting in the seat, you’d be getting the same requests. Now, it’s up to you whether you want to honor the request or not, but it’s more about the passion of people loving the Tigers and whoever sits in the chair of head coach. And that’s my thing, nobody’s ever bigger than the program – including the head coach. And the second you take it for granted or think you’re bigger than that it’s going to be taken away from you at any split second. So I try to, if you have an opportunity it’s one of the great perks about the job is you do have an opportunity to make a positive difference with people by just simply being the head coach of the Memphis Tigers and by being good to people. You can make a positive difference in the community.

Q: Is that the same approach you have at home? Pay it Forward in all your relationships?

A: Yea. That’s how I am. I try to. What you see is what you get. I don’t go home and I’m a different dude. I’m the same guy at all times. I just believe in principal. I believe in doing things the right way. It doesn’t mean there’s not mistakes, or mess ups because the good Lord knows I’ve had many mistakes and many mess ups. But I try the very best I can to do things right, with principal, with integrity, and you know usually things will work itself out when you do it that way.

Q: Ok – on to basketball. What would you say your biggest strength and your biggest weakness is as a head coach? Purely basketball, all the other stuff aside.

A: You know Jay, I’ll start off with weakness. I think, and I don’t have time nor do you to have the space to cover all the weaknesses I have. But I would say that one or two that I know that I have – and something that I also recognize – I’m a better coach today in my 6th year than I was in my first year. And I hope to be a better coach in my 12th year that I am today. So I hope to continue to improve and be better, which I still have a lot of room for growth and I recognize that.

I do think some of my areas of weaknesses can also be used as strengths. I think it can be used in both directions. I’m extremely transparent – very very up front and leave zero grey area. And again, these are both weaknesses and strengths. Because I don’t play mind games. I don’t beat around the bush. I tell it very like it is, without ever demeaning or putting someone down or embarrassing, but telling it like it is so they know where they stand. Now, I believe that’s a weakness and a strength. You might say, Well how can it be both? It’s both because sometimes in this day and age different people need to be handled differently. Sometimes you’ve got to massage (the players) a little more. Or you’ve got to play some mind games a little bit just to get them to where you want to get them. But I’m not that type of guy and I don’t like having grey area. And I don’t feel comfortable, if I feel something, not being directly honest. I don’t like playing card games.

Q: (I interrupt) No – I totally get it. So a guy like Shaq Goodwin – maybe another coach would be up in his face, doing things that you’re not comfortable doing because it doesn’t speak to who you are as a person, right?

A: Or, for example, I might tell a player on our team: 

Hey – man you got a chance to play in the NBA, you’ve gotta do this, you’ve gotta do that, you’ve got a chance to make it, you have a chance to be a lottery pick.

And to play mind games with them, to try to get em to say:

Man you know you’re right.

But being myself, I’d say:

You’re not good enough to play in the NBA, you’re not good enough to be a lottery pick. That’s the truth.

Q: You’ll say that to guys?

A: Very much so. I might say:

If you want to get to have an opportunity, here’s what you need to do: x, y, and z.

And I believe that. I believe in being very honest, straightforward, not playing any mind games. That’s just me personally. And as much as they’re strengths, those can also be weaknesses.

Q: With that kind of approach which, you have to admit, is probably different from most college basketball coaches – for better or for worse – wouldn’t that require a recruiting strategy to find guys that can thrive in that system? (A system) where they’re going to have to be in some ways self motivated, because you’re not going to play mind games and manipulate and get in their face and M.F. them?

A: Yea, and that’s an area of growth of mine moving forward. Of seeing, OK these are certain guys with my style that can thrive and some certain guys maybe it’s not the right fit. Maybe I’m not the right fit for them or they’re not the right fit for me. But I do believe that the very best – because I’m a self driven – self motivated, very intense, very positive, have a drive. I want others to have that too. And so I believe that you can motivate. I believe that motivating is important, which I do. I do believe in motivating.

Q: Does this team have a floor general?

A: That’s an area that we’ve got to continue to get better. And the floor general is not just at the point guard spot. Someone has to take the reins on the floor. I’ve always believed that if the head coach is your floor general at all times, (then) I think you have a ceiling on the team. I would like, and I do believe, Austin Nichols has that ability as he continues to grow to be that floor general on the floor.

Q: You’ve been in Memphis for 7 years, how long were you in Tucson?

A: 12 or 13.

Q: Do you feel like a full fledged Memphian?

A: Full fledged Memphian – without question.

Q: Jim Boeheim and Coach K have been at their schools for 30+ years. But you also have Hall Of Fame guys like Calipari and Pitino who have moved around strategically. For the sake of this question just assume that you’re every bit the coach as these guys are and you have the career that they have. So without comparing yourself as a coach, do you fit philosophically more as a guy that would stay at one place for 30 or 40 years, having nothing to do with Memphis, or do you see the benefit of maybe every 10 years saying, you know what, it’s time for a new challenge?

A: Well if you look at my past history I’m not a jumper. I grew up in Houston, TX and lived 18 years there. I was in Tucson, AZ for 12 or 13 years and I’m here for 7. So I’m not a jumper. That being said, I don’t see why you can’t coach at Memphis for as long as – for 30 years. That being said, also, you have to be successful for a lot of those years otherwise you’re not going to be welcomed back. So yes, would I like to be at Memphis for a long time? Of course I would cause it is a great job. I believe in the job. But also to be able to stay for that type of longevity, in this day and age, you need the administration and the fans have got to want you back for all those years. And so the best way to be able to do that is obviously you’ve got to win, but you’ve got to win right. You’ve got to win at a high level, but you’ve got to win at a high level the right way. Both on and off the floor.

Josh Pastner & John Calipari on the recruiting trail.
Josh Pastner & John Calipari on the recruiting trail.

Q: We recently put forth a blog entry about fan expectations and what the Memphis program really is. We all have an opinion of what it is and what it should be. At your introductory press conference you talked about how you wanted “no slippage” from where John Calipari had it. But on the other hand everybody knew that was almost impossible – to duplicate that success. So, how do you balance that? How do you balance having the highest goals with ‘what Memphis is as a program?’ – and saying things like, winning is hard and trying to educate the fan base about what the expectations should be? How do you balance that – and do you have any regrets?

A: It was going to be impossible to follow, to do duplicate Coach Calipari’s success in those last 4 years. That was the greatest run in the history of NCAA division I basketball. Ever. John Wooden didn’t do it. Neither did Dean Smith….

Q: Wait, I thought John Wooden won like 10 titles in a row? (Note: It was 7 consecutive – and 10 in 12 seasons) Or do you mean from a winning percentage standpoint?

A: Yea – not in a 4 year span has anyone won as many games as John Calipari did in those 4 years. That was the greatest 4 year span, most wins anyone has ever had in the history of college basketball. In the history. So that’s what I was following….

Q: They didn’t play as many games back then, but I see what you’re saying….on pure numbers.

A: This is the greatest 4 year run in the history of college basketball. So in the history of the game, this 4 year run – by the number of wins in a 4 year period – nobody has ever matched it. Coach Calipari and Memphis did it. Now, that’s what I was following. And so, it is not reality to be able to follow that and to duplicate that. So, have we been very successful? I believe we have been very successful. We’ve done a lot of good. We have been really good in so many areas. Our reputation in all areas, is at as high a level as it’s ever been. We’ve won on the court. We’ve won off the court. We’ve been great in the community, and there’s a lot to be said for that. And we’ve won. I mean, we’ve won a lot of games. I know people say, well we haven’t gotten to the sweet 16. Listen, I want to go 40-0 and win the national championship. The last two years, we fell a game short of the Sweet 16. That’s no fun for anybody.

Q: It’s a fine line?

A: It’s a fine line. But when you look at the overall picture we’ve done a really good job in not an easy situation. But we’ve done a very good job and part of being the head coach at Memphis and following John Calipari – there was going to be criticism, negativity, doubters, and that’s part of it.

Q: So you’re real clear headed on that, and I respect that…..

A: But Jay, here’s what makes this program intense: the emotional investment. Since my first year people have – when I lost a game – they wanted me fired. So this isn’t like the first year. Every year I’ve been here there’s been a crisis basically. And the crisis, you’re just talking about – is not anything off the court, or a scandal. It’s extremely debated. The crisis is whether I should be the coach or not. That’s the debate since the first (day) I was head coach here at Memphis.

Q: What was your best moment and your worst moment as Head Coach at Memphis?

A: It’s funny how things work. The best moment was – there’s no question – when we beat UTEP in the championship in El Paso in the C-USA tournament.

Q: I completely agree by the way.

A: There’s no doubt about it. It was the first time Memphis had won a tournament away from home in 20 or 30 years and what made it the best was two weeks prior we might have had the worst moment losing to the same team (UTEP) by 35 points on national television. And two weeks later we beat them to go to the NCAA tournament and it’s funny how things work. I believe in this – you’re walking through a hallway and there’s a crack of light because the window’s barely open. And the light is coming through that crack, and you’re either gonna walk by it or you see the light and you find a way to maneuver – open that window more to get through it. And that’s what happened – and it was exactly two weeks to the day. And we were able to win what we had to win and get to the tournament.

 

 

 

 

Tigers Let Down, Messed Around

You know that famous song by The Foundations?

The one at the end of There’s Something About Mary?

The “build me up” song?

Of course you know it. Everybody knows it.

Why do you build me up (build me up) Buttercup, baby
Just to let me down (let me down) and mess me around
And then worst of all (worst of all)….

And then worst of all, you blow a 17 point lead.

And then worst of all, you go into deep freeze offensively.

And then worst of all, your team leader and star Austin Nichols goes down with a gruesome lower leg injury.

And then worst of all, you fail to get back and adequately contest the last second shot after taking a lead with 7 seconds to go.

And then worst of all, you lose what could have been a huge momentum building win against a good (top 35 RPI) Temple team heading into the final month of the season.

And then worst of all, you go from maybe the most hopeful moment of the season to the darkest in a period of 91 minutes.

Sigh. 

The story can be summed up by two separate tweets, 91 minutes apart, from Tiger beat reporter Jason Smith:

First, the high:

And then, a mere 91 minutes later – in the aftermath of the crash:

If you haven’t already read about the game – here’s Smith’s game story in the CA.

Let’s hear from some of our friends:

Philosophic Phil:

  • The injury to Austin Nichols is a very good reminder of a few things. One, that Nichols’ long term health is the really important story in all this. The young man has a bright future ahead of him in the game of basketball and the news that his injury was not an ACL tear was a huge relief.
  • It’s also a reminder of why there’s so much pressure to redefine the concept of amateurism to reflect economic realities. Austin Nichols, and other stars of the college game, need insurance to guard against the economic effect of a serious injury. They need the advice of agents. And there’s an argument to be made that they need to be able to capitalize on their stardom as soon as possible.
Photo Courtesy of The Commercial Appeal.
Photo Courtesy of The Commercial Appeal.
  • If you’re adamantly against relaxing the rules on amateur athletes making money – I’d point you to the wall art in the Finch Center (left) – where Memphis Practices. It says “Do Your Job” – these guys work for the University and what they’re putting on the line becomes really clear in moments like Saturday’s – when Nichols went down. I’m not for paying college athletes a salary – but there are some other things that are being done that are long overdue.

Negative Nellie:

  • Where has this Shaq Goodwin been? This isn’t a negative comment per se – because Shaq was in full beast mode pulling down 23 rebounds. Yet it does highlight the obvious question: Why can’t he give this kind of effort more consistently? Maybe this will wake him up to do just that. Like Tarik Black before him – he has the physical tools to play at the next level if he can find the effort to match.
  • The Tigers (obviously) needed to do a much better job of getting back on defense to contest that last shot. To be fair, Temple just made a good play – but there was a lack of urgency on the part of Memphis’ guards, and it cost them. If you missed the play, I’ve copied the video at the end of this post.
  • If we’re gonna nit-pick, it might have been nice to have a time-out in that spot to set up your defense.

Realistic Ralph:

  • It’s really hard to imagine Memphis doing anything but struggling immensely without Austin Nichols available over the next few weeks.
  • The Tigers will now lack their best offensive and defensive player – and the one guy who’s been consistent all year in every way.
  • The season feels somewhat gone at this point. It will be a victory for Pastner to keep his guys fighting and to play .500 ball without Nichols in the lineup.   On a positive note – it will be chance for young guys like Trahson Burrell and Markel Crawford to play a ton of minutes. That’ll help the program going forward.

Here’s the final sequence, ICYMI:

 

 

Tigers Are Who We Thought They Were (Gonzaga Postgame)

As I watched the Tigers get blown out by Gonzaga Saturday night, I thought of Former Arizona Cardinals coach Denny Green’s famous post-game rant. The Tigers are who we thought they were. In other words: the least talented Memphis team – especially at the point guard position – in possibly 15 years. Nothing we saw against Gonzaga changed any of that – though you do have to give the Tigers some credit for playing hard and sticking together – in the midst of getting their doors blown off once again.

More after Denny’s rant:

It’s good every time, isn’t it?

Anyway – back to the game. Let’s hear from some of our friends:

Negative Nellie:

  • Tiger fans have to be very sick of seeing Memphis get blown out – because it’s happening a lot. 
  • In the last calendar year, the Tigers have been blown out 10 times.
  • The games and margins are as follows – beginning on 2/1/14: at SMU by 15, at Cincinnati by 13, vs. UConn by 19, vs. Virginia by 18, vs. Wichita State by 15, vs. Baylor by 24, vs. Oklahoma State by 18, at SMU by 14, at Tulsa by 18 and tonight vs. Gonzaga by 18.
  • That’s 10 times in the program’s last 35 games that Memphis has been blown out. I’m no statistician, but that’s 1 time every 3.5 games. That’s a lot of blowouts.
  • Certainly Memphis is young – but one has to acknowledge that the blow outs could indicate a deeper problem in the program.
  • Shaq Goodwin had 8 rebounds, some nice hustle plays and appeared to keep a positive attitude – but he also had 0 points on 6 shots and thus his Junior season continues to be a disappointment.

Philosophic Phil:

  • Some fans will disagree, but it’s always a glass half full / half empty thing with Pastner’s teams.
  • Half full – the Tigers – in a very hostile environment – fought hard and kept it close for a while. Then, after getting blown out on both sides of halftime, they scraped back in the last 10 minutes against what will be the the #2 team in the country this week.
  • Half empty – is this what the program has been reduced to? Feeling good about only losing by 18 to Gonzaga?
  • Half full – Trashon Burrell and Markel Crawford bring a lot of defensive energy to the lineup and appear to be nice pieces for the program going forward.

woody-woodpecker-o

  • Half empty – the Tigers have no true point guard on the roster. Pookie Powell – since high school – has always been more of a scoring guard. Kedren Johnson still isn’t back to his former level. Demarnier Cunningham plays hard but hasn’t proven he can be effective at this level yet (he also, by the way, is the only PG in the history of basketball who dribbles with an upper body strut that looks like a cross between George Jefferson and Woody Woodpecker (left)).
  • Unfortunately, the trio combined for a mere 3 total assists.
  • Half full – all 3 PG’s combined for only 2 turnovers. After their early season struggles holding onto the ball, the staff has slowed the Tigers offense down and figured out a way to not let turnovers beat them. Gotta give them credit for that adjustment.

Realistic Ralph:

  • There just has to be a story about Shaq Goodwin and why he’s so clearly regressed from last year. Is he unhappy with the coaching staff? Distracted? Bored with basketball?
  • I’m sure those close to the program know the answer to that, but nobody on the beat has written that piece. Maybe it’s not an appropriate story to write about a college kid. I get that – but it’s fair to say this coaching staff has had several different guys that they simply can’t get through to. Shaq is the latest, whatever the reason.
  • It would be one thing if Shaq hadn’t had a very promising Sophomore campaign – he is averaging fewer points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals from last year.
  • The Tigers next game – vs. Jacksonville State on Wednesday night at FedExForum, 7pm – is a nice late season cupcake before Memphis re-enters AAC play for the stretch run. Attendance prediction? Over / Under 5,500?
  • Memphis has some winnable games down the stretch – and if they can display the same kind of stick-togetherness and fight they showed in the last 8 or 10 minutes of the Gonzaga game, they can still finish the season on a high note.

 

 

All Things Tigers – Post ECU (1/28/15)

Tonight our friends review Wednesday’s Tigers-ECU game, respond to a column from Wednesday’s CA, and look ahead to Saturday’s game against Gonzaga.

Here we go….

Philosophic Phil:

“I still love the Tigers,” Blose said. “I’ll always love the Tigers. But I can’t take it any more.”

Blose’s rationale?

“We’re not relevant,” he said. “We don’t even compete in a lot of big games. And Josh (Pastner), I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but he talks to us like we’re idiots, like we don’t know basketball.”

  • The part about Pastner speaking to fans like idiots is interesting, and valid to some extent. I’ve heard the complaint before, but Calkins’ column is the first time I’ve seen it mentioned publicly.
  • Part of what made following John Calipari such a difficult task was that fan expectations needed to be adjusted. In Pastner’s zeal to explain that “winning is hard” and that “it’s not a birthright to go to the NCAA tournament” – he has clearly lost credibility with fans who feel patronized.
  • As to the relevance point, it should be noted that Blose gave up his tickets before this year. In other words, he gave them up on the heels of Memphis appearing – however briefly – in 4 consecutive NCAA tournaments. That’s hardly a clear cut lack of relevance.
  • Nobody should be alarmed or judgmental when fans don’t support a struggling team. Some folks are willing to stick with a young or inexperienced team trying to come together – some would rather spend their time elsewhere.
  • The bottom line is guys like Blose will come back if and when the Tigers start winning big. Until then, the athletic department will have to stomach smaller crowds.
  • Keep in mind most colleges play at smaller campus venues and the average college crowd nationally is under 5k. Most also don’t compete with NBA teams.

Realistic Ralph:

  • The Tigers have won 5 of 6 to push their record to 13-7 (6-3) heading into a showdown at #3 Gonzaga on Saturday.
  • Let’s be honest (and realistic), it’s hard to envision Memphis even competing in Spokane.
  • The Zags have lost once all year – in OT at Arizona.
  • The Tigers have won six of seven in the series vs. Gonzaga since 2005, but in years past Memphis had a clear edge in athleticism. That no longer being the case, this looks like the year the Zags finally exact revenge.
  • After Gonzaga, the Tigers finish the season with a stretch of 10 games (9 AAC games + and odd date next Wed. against Jacksonville State at FEF).
  • Realistic goals for Memphis at this point are (a) 20 wins, and (b) a top 4 finish in the AAC – and thus a bye in March’s AAC tournament in Hartford.

Negative Nellie:

  • The drama continues for Memphis. Nick King, who was a DNP against Tulane (and the subject of transfer speculation all week), played 19 minutes against ECU and tallied 11 pts, 7 rebs.
  • Pastner’s rationalization for sitting King against Tulane – the need to trim the rotation – lasted just one game. 9 guys played extended (8+) minutes against ECU – and that was with Shaq Goodwin sidelined.
  • As I wrote last week, anything more than an 8 man rotation is statistically not a recipe for success in college basketball.
  • Calvin Godfrey – who looked so good against Cincinnati and UCF a few weeks ago – has since seen his minutes dwindle. His production is down as well. Against ECU, he finished with 0 points and 2 rebounds in just 9 minutes.
  • The 3-headed PG monster still hasn’t produced a floor general for Memphis. Kedren Johnson (7pts, 2asts) played the majority of minutes against ECU but looked a little sluggish. Pookie Powell (5pts, 1 ast) played just 8 minutes. Pastner eventually turned to Demarnier Cunningham (2 asts) for 4 minutes as well.

 

 

Philosophic Phil, Realistic Ralph & Negative Nellie (Post @ Houston)

Well, the Tigers won a road conference game. That’s always nice. Winning being hard and all. Better Tiger teams than this one have lost at Hofheinz, so overall it was a good day.

Let’s hear from our friends after the Tigers’ 62-44 triumph over the lowly Cougars:

Philosophic Phil:

  • New Houston coach Kelvin Sampson has to be wondering what he got himself into at Houston, which is just an absolute graveyard of (sometimes decent) coaches.
  • Sampson, the former Indiana and Oklahoma head coach and NBA assistant (while serving his show-cause NCAA penalty for repeated rules violations) surely would have had better opportunities to get back in the game had he waited a little longer.
  • James Dickey, Tom Penders, Ray McCallum, Clyde Drexler, Alvin Brooks – all former Houston Cougar coaches, all **tried to return the program to it’s 1980’s glory. All failed.
  • An announced crowd of 2697 attended the game – gotta figure that was inflated by about half. The environment appeared to allow Memphis to relax and get into a nice flow.
  • So it was a good day for Memphis, who really needed a blowout for their confidence going forward.

**According to observers, it’s not clear that Drexler actually tried all that hard. He was known to play 18 holes of golf on game days (and other days).

Realistic Ralph:

  • Houston is really bad. 0-4 in AAC play thus far and 7-8 overall with some really bad losses.
  • Nice that Memphis took care of business to improve to 9-6 (2-2), but given the competition this doesn’t appear to alter the trajectory of the season.
  • Austin Nichols continues to be a very bright spot in a gloomy campaign for Memphis. Against Houston he finished with 16 pts, 7 rbs and 4 blocks.
  • Kedren Johnson re-emerged on Sunday. The Vanderbilt transfer who had been relegated to the bench after entering the season as a projected starter, finished Sunday’s game with 10 points (on perfect shooting), 4 assists and just one turnover.
  • Shaq Goodwin had nice energy for the first time in a while. He finished with just 8 pts and 5 rebounds, but was aggressive. Like a lot of Tigers, Shaq appears to flourish against weaker competition and disappear in more challenging games.

Negative Nellie:

  • With Pastner’s inability or refusal to establish a consistent rotation, one is left to consistently wonder where the next discontented eruption is going to come from. The Houston game did nothing to alter this trend.
  • This game, it was Calvin Godfrey in the starting lineup and Nick King (coming back from injury) only playing 9 minutes. Hard to quibble with the allocation, especially given the result – but you know King won’t stay happy if his minutes don’t go back to pre-injury levels. Those minutes will have to come from somewhere and we already know Godfrey isn’t shy about complaining.
  • We also saw Johnson take Demarnier Cunningham’s minutes against Houston. Johnson played 17 minutes and Cunningham just 4, which was basically a reversal from the SMU game. Again, hard to quibble with the actual decision, but you wonder if either player knows what to expect going forward and what Pastner communicates to them about their roles.
  • Big game coming up against Cincinnati on Thursday at FedExForum – and at this point you just expect the Tigers to break out a totally new starting lineup, rotation, strategy, and identity.
  • Someone needs to tell Pastner that purplish-blue tie does not go with that deep blue shirt. Not a good look.

Negative Nellie, Realistic Ralph & Philosophic Phil (Post @SMU)

The SMU game was a microcosm of the Memphis season so far. Tepid, ineffectual, and void of any legitimate hope of a successful outcome. Too strong?

If the wheels haven’t come off for Josh Pastner’s squad, they’re certainly wobbly at the moment.

Let’s take a look at 3 points of view….

Philosophic Phil

  • It’s amazing how much better of a basketball program SMU is than Memphis right now.
  • Seems like just yesterday Coach Doh and SMU were a total laughingstock and the worst program in a very bad CUSA.
  • SMU at that point went way outside the box in hiring then 71-year old Larry Brown to resurrect its horrid basketball program. He’s done a magnificent job and at this point SMU is the favorite in the AAC. Memphis quite obviously is headed in the other direction.
  • It’s amazing more programs with nothing to lose (historically awful programs like SMU) don’t hire proven winners like Brown who seem washed up, but in the right environment could thrive and possibly pay huge dividends.
  • Guys like Jim Calhoun (72), Nolan Richardson (73), Bobby Knight (74), Gary Williams (69) have all been out of the game for several years now. It’s a shame more AD’s don’t have the courage to pick up the phone and do something unique.

Negative Nellie

  • When was the last time Memphis played a game where before the actual tip you basically knew the Tigers had no chance to win? It never felt like Memphis had a shot against SMU – even if things broke exactly right. SMU is just too strong and well coached for Memphis.
  • Memphis’ supposed strength – it’s front court – was totally exposed against SMU. SMU’s bigs got great position all night. SMU’s shot chart at the end of the game looked like there was a paintball explosion right around the rim.
  • More rotation drama and repercussions for Pastner’s squad. We knew going into the SMU game that Kuran Iverson wasn’t going to be available – but for whatever reason Pastner also suspended / sat Trashon Burrell.
  • Burrell had been Memphis’ most consistent wing so far this season, and not having him against SMU further crippled the offense.
  • I appreciate that Josh Pastner has lines he won’t let the players cross, but the suspension tactic has gotten out of control. At some point you either have the gravitas and authority to control / run your program and win, or you don’t. If you have to suspend your best players every game, you’re undermining your primary objective as a coach – to win basketball games.

Realistic Ralph

  • In isolation, a loss to pre-season conference favorite SMU on the road by 14 in January isn’t a reason to panic (Memphis actually played worse at SMU last year), but it’s just starting to get really hard to imagine a positive way forward for this team.
  • It’s the mid-point of the season and there’s still no clear identity for this Memphis team. For all the talk about Memphis hanging their hat on defense, they just got absolutely chewed up by SMU’s offensive penetration – which produced wide open looks at the rim.
  • As for their offensive identity, they struggle against solid defensive teams to generate any kind of open look via their guards, or to get the ball to Nichols. Shaq Goodwin remains a complete mystery.
  • The attitude of the fan base is one of detachment / anger / frustration. This is not a good thing for Pastner, who appears to be in danger of losing his team as well.
  • The Tigers next 2 games should be an interesting barometer of whether or not this team is going to quit. They travel to Houston on Saturday – the Cougars aren’t good, but Hoffheinz is always a tricky place to play in. After that Memphis plays Cincinnati at home next Thursday.