Memphis v Michigan State

Should Josh Pastner get out of Memphis?


If you’re one of those jumpy Memphis fans who wants to get rid of Josh Pastner because he’s failed to live up to the Calipari mythos, I’d counsel patience. If you can’t appreciate the upward trend that’s right in front of your faces, nobody is ever going to make you happy. The Tigers have won more than 20 games in each of Pastner’s four seasons, and each season the number of wins has increased. This year, Memphis was 16-0 in league play and topped 30 wins.

And all that is nice. As power-conference fans will gleefully point out, it’s easier to make it to those milestones in C-USA, and they don’t matter if you can’t win in the NCAA Tournament. I’ll cede that point even though I don’t like the snide tone of the discourse.

So let’s look beyond the numbers and go to the eyeball test. If you watched Memphis lose to Michigan State in the Round of 32, you know what I’m talking about.

I lost count of how many times a blue-clad body hit the floor in pursuit of a loose ball. Memphis’ defense was sloppy, but persistent. D.J. Stephens rising above the rim to block shots will be a recurring theme in the One Shining Moment video. Dudes were jumping out of their shoes half the game.

The Tigers played hard and loose, and never gave up. They were a reflection of their coach, who got so involved in the defensive effort he performed impromptu calesthenics in the coach’s box. Did he look like a hyperactive goofball? Sure, but ask UCLA fans if they’d prefer an energetic goober or a phlegmatic spectator on the bench when the time comes to lay it all on the line.

My colleague Rob Dauster will tell you that Pastner is not a good fit in Memphis, where his clean-cut approach is out-of-sync with the city’s inherent toughness. He’s not wrong. Pastner also has a long way to go before anyone mentions his name and gravitas in the same sentence. Finally, the time has come when his obvious recruiting ability has to be coupled with tactical brilliance, and if Pastner can’t acquire that for himself, he needs to hire it. Think Steve Lavin and Gene Keady, though, you know, with more actual winning.

In the end, Pastner probably must leave Memphis to achieve his true potential. He may have reached his pinnacle at Memphis already. But as the annual rumors of big-time programs pursuing Shaka Smart and Brad Stevens – also straight-arrows – heat up, is it really that far off the mark to imagine that Josh Pastner might be the third guy on that list of phone calls?

Keep an eye on the coaching carousel, is all I can say.

To follow along with the 2013 Coaching Carousel, click here.

Eric Angevine is the editor of Storming the Floor. He tweets @stfhoops.

Louisville backcourt struggles in first scrimmage

Quentin Snider, Jerian Grant
Associated Press
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While a few teams did manage to hold special events for the official start of practice this weekend, most simply went about their business with drills and conditioning. One team that was the exception to all of this was Louisville, which held the first of its two intersquad scrimmages on Saturday. The Cardinals had a head start of sorts on the season, as they played six exhibition games in Puerto Rico this summer.

One hope heading into Saturday’s scrimmage was that guards Trey Lewis and Quentin Snider would have better chemistry than they did in Puerto Rico. But according to Jeff Greer of the Louisville Courier-Journal, that remains a work in progress for the Cleveland State transfer (Lewis) and rising sophomore (Snider).

They struggled in Puerto Rico, and they struggled again in Saturday’s Red-White scrimmage, the first public intrasquad practice since August. They played one half of the game together, paired with the presumed starting lineup with Mangok Mathiang out with an eye injury, a group that also included Damion Lee, Jaylen Johnson and Chinanu Onuaku.

That team lost the first half by 13 points to a younger group of Louisville players, and Lewis and Snider combined for eight points on 3-of-12 shooting, five turnovers, five steals, four assists and three rebounds.

“I thought (Snider) and (Lewis) did not play well together,” U of L coach Rick Pitino said. “They’ve got to get used to that. Neither guy made other guys better. That’s what they need to learn to do.”

As Greer also noted in his story the Cardinals have in recent years employed backcourt tandems in which both guards are capable of making plays for themselves and others. On the 2013 national champion team Peyton Siva and Russ Smith led the way, with Smith being joined by Terry Rozier or Chris Jones the following season and Rozier/Jones being the grouping last season before the latter was dismissed from the team.

Once Jones was dismissed Snider saw more time on the court, and his development was one of the keys for a Louisville team that fell one win short of the Final Four. Louisville needs him to take another step forward heading into the 2015-16 season, because even with Lewis’ experience at the Division I level Snider has more experience playing in Pitino’s system.

But while Saturday’s scrimmage didn’t go as well as anyone involved hoped, there’s still plenty of time for Louisville to work out the kinks before they open the season November 13 against Samford.

Knee injury sidelines Memphis assistant

Toronto Raptors vs Charlotte Hornets
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With practices beginning this weekend, not only are players looking to avoid the injury bug but their coaches are as well. And in the case of Memphis, the Tigers won’t have one of their assistants on the court for a little while due to a knee injury.

Assistant coach Damon Stoudamire, who returned to Josh Pastner’s staff this summer after a two-year stint at Arizona, suffered the injury during a recent workout according to L. Jason Smith of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal. And Stoudamire will require surgery, which will put him on the shelf for a little bit.

“He was working out himself and I think he thought he was in his rookie year,” Pastner said. “We think he’s got a torn meniscus, which will require surgery and put him out for a couple of days.”

Stoudamire isn’t the only assistant coach working through pain either. Syracuse’s Mike Hopkins, who is also Jim Boeheim’s heir apparent as head coach, suffered a neck injury body surfing during a family vacation last month. Hopkins spent some time in a neck brace while putting players through workouts as a result of the injury.

As for the Tigers, they’ll have a mixture of experience on the perimeter and youth in the front court as they look to get back to the NCAA tournament after missing out last season. Among the newcomers are talented forwards Dedric and K.J. Lawson, with experienced guards such as Kedren Johnson, Trahson Burrell and Ricky Tarrant (grad transfer from Alabama) expected to be key contributors on the perimeter.