The 2013 basketball season was one of the most electrifying seasons University of Memphis fans have experienced under the leadership of head basketball coach Josh Pastner.
Prior to last year’s season, the Pastner-led Tigers had racked up a high volume of wins. Unfortunately, none of those wins were against the country’s top 25 teams. With five such victories, not only did the most recent version of the Tigers get over the hump, they were able to sweep their historical rival Louisville Cardinals.
That was last year. With the 2014 season will come a new set of challenges for Pastner, whose team lost four quality guards. Pastner addressed those challenges during a Rotary Club luncheon at the University Center this week.
During his “State of the Tigers” address, Pastner opened by informing those in attendance that the team is very healthy academically, having a perfect APR (Academic Progress Report) score. The APR matters because schools that don’t meet the standards are subject to consequences that ultimately could lead to consequences such as exclusion from the NCAA tournament, a television ban, loss of scholarships and possible coach suspensions.
Having won 75 percent of its games with 4 straight tournaments appearances, the next step for Memphis is to get to the second weekend known as the Sweet 16.
“It is not a birthright to be in the NCAA tournament,” said Pastner. “On CBS and Turner, it does not say the road to elite title. It says ‘Road to Final 4.’ It is not easy to make the tournament every year. … The one thing that has not been done in Memphis is win a championship and that’s something that we want to do.”
Pastner stressed that he is a believer of discipline. Instead of holding individuals accountable for their actions, the whole team will be held accountable. According to Pastner, who put this technique into effect this past spring, it has been really effective.
“Will it translate to wins? I don’t know,” he said. “It adds the peer pressure of not wanting to let a teammate down.”
Reflecting on last year, Pastner said he misjudged the team’s three-point shooting.
“The game comes down to three-point shooting. To be effective, all you have to do is shoot 33 percent from three-point range, which equals 50 percent from two. Coaches recruit four to five men who can shoot the three-point shot. If you make a bunch, you can beat a bunch of teams.”
With the lost of four very talented guards, Pastner made it known that next season’s team will have inexperienced guards. New players Anthony Cole and Markel Crawford are talented guards, but have never played a minute of Division I basketball. The ever-positive Pastner said that even with the inexperience the Tigers will be an exciting team.
Shaq Goodwin, Austin Nichols and Nick King, who got in the rotation late in the season. are expected to be a force. Then Pastner made a statement that caught many by surprise.
“Dominique Woodson could be better than both Shaq and Austin talent wise,” said Paster.
Woodson, who came in at 6'10" 335 pounds and is now down to 290-295 pounds, is blessed with great hands and agile feet. Pastner said Woodson has to learn how to filter his mouth, but can be a dominate player.
The widely-watched search for a new assistant coach continues, said Pastner.
“I can tell you this, I will have a new assistant coach before the start of the season.”