ATLANTA (AP) — Josh Pastner is facing an uncertain future as Georgia Tech's basketball coach after another losing season and few signs of progress in the Atlantic Coast Conference program.
The Yellow Jackets capped a 15-19 campaign Wednesday with an 89-81 loss to Pittsburgh in the second round of the ACC Tournament at Greensboro, North Carolina.
Pastner was asked if he expected to be retained for an eighth season with the Atlanta school.
“I hope to be at Georgia Tech,” he said. “I love Georgia Tech. I love my job. I have a real passion for it, and I believe in it.”
In the end, Georgia Tech President Angel Cabrera and athletic director J Batt, who has only been on the job since October, will make the call.
“They’re in charge, so whatever they say, they’re in charge,” Pastner said. “I hope I can continue to be at Georgia Tech.”
His best season was a surprising run to the ACC Tournament championship during the pandemic-marred 2020-21 season, which also marked Georgia Tech's lone NCAA appearance in the past 13 seasons. They were knocked out by Loyola in their opening game.
The Yellow Jackets, once one of the ACC's top programs, haven't won an NCAA postseason game since 2010.
Pastner left Memphis to take over at Georgia Tech in 2016, following Brian Gregory's forgettable five-year tenure.
Pastner's reputation as a high-level recruiter was supposed to raise the Yellow Jackets' talent level, but he has rarely landed a heralded recruit during his time in Atlanta.
His record at Georgia Tech is 109-113, including a 51-77 mark in the ACC.
“Look, I would tell you that when I got the job, they told me when I came in, and I met with everybody, that it’s going to be ... starting from ground zero,” said the 45-year-old Pastner, clearly lobbying for his job. “And they said you’re going to lose so much your first three or four years that you’re going to -- we’ve got to have someone that’s going to be ultra-positive because you’re going to lose so much.”
Pastner was just 31 when he took over at Memphis for John Calipari in 2009.
The Tigers kept right on winning, going 130-44 with four NCAA Tournament appearances over Pastner's first five seasons.
But the program dipped his final two years, posting a 37-29 mark while failing to make the NCAAs. When Georgia Tech came looking for Gregory's successor, Pastner jumped at the chance.
“Initially they told me they didn’t know if I could handle it because at Memphis, we had won a lot of games,” Pastner recalled. “I said, ‘No, I’m excited about the rebuild.’”
There were finally indications of progress in his fifth season, when the Yellow Jackets made that one-and-done NCAA appearance.
But they slumped to 12-20 last season, including a 5-15 mark in conference play.
This season, Georgia Tech got off to dismal start in the ACC, dropping 12 of their first 13 league contests — including a nine-game losing streak.
Pastner's team rallied late in the year. The Yellow Jackets won six of their final eight regular-season games, though that was only good enough for a 6-14 mark in the ACC. Then, they knocked off Florida State 61-60 in the opening round of the conference tournament.
Will the strong finish be enough for Pastner to keep his job? Especially when attendance at McCamish Pavilion has plummeted the last two years?
Pastner's tenure has also been marred by NCAA sanctions linked to a former friend who was accused of recruiting violations. Georgia Tech accepted a postseason ban in 2020, when the season shut down anyway because of COVID-19, and some of its sanctions were overturned on appeal.
Potentially working in Pastner's favor: The athletic program has struggled financially and is paying a hefty buyout to Geoff Collins, who was fired early last season in just his fourth year as Georgia Tech's football coach.
Then again, Cabrera showed he was willing to dump a coach who wasn't getting the job done.
Pastner hopes to get one more year to build on the success of the past month.
“We’ve really finished really well this year,” he said. “I wish we started better.”