Blog Entry

Pastner's job just got a lot harder at Memphis

Posted on: February 7, 2012 3:15 pm
Edited on: February 8, 2012 7:59 am
Memphis basketball will see its profile raised -- and that could be a good and bad thing for its head coach. (AP)

By Gary Parrish

News that Memphis is expected to join the Big East is great for the city of Memphis. And the University of Memphis. And the athletic department. And the football program. And the fans. And pretty much everybody ... except Josh Pastner.

This is not a great development for the Memphis basketball coach.

Granted, it doesn't necessarily have to be a bad thing. But there's a reason John Calipari went from a coach who won just one NCAA tournament game in his first five seasons at Memphis to a coach who went to a Final Four, two Elite Eights and a Sweet 16 in his last four years, and it's not solely because somebody (allegedly) took Derrick Rose's SAT. The rise to prominence coincided with Louisville, Cincinnati and Marquette getting the hell out of Conference USA and leaving Memphis as the only school in the league that funded its basketball program like a national power. Suddenly, nobody else in C-USA could recruit like Memphis or travel like Memphis or pay its coach like Memphis, and the Tigers started overwhelming the league in the exact same way -- and for exactly the same reasons -- that Gonzaga had been overwhelming the West Cost Conference.

Those advantages disappear the day Memphis moves to the Big East.

And what's to be gained for the basketball coach?

The Tigers already routinely sell out FedExForum and recruit almost nothing but Top 100 prospects, so the usual bumps that come with an advancement in conference affiliation won't matter much to Pastner. The only thing that'll change is that he'll no longer be able to out-recruit his league because Louisville, Connecticut, Villanova, Marquette and Georgetown (just to name a few) all recruit at the highest levels, too. So now Pastner will find himself fighting with the likes of Rick Pitino, Jay Wright, John Thompson III and Mike Brey to get to the top of the Big East, and he'll be scrapping like crazy in some years to avoid falling into the bottom half. It's much easier to consistently beat UAB, UTEP and Southern Miss than it is to consistently beat at least 10 Big East programs. That's the reality of the situation. The Memphis job just got a lot tougher.

Which is not to suggest this isn't a day for Memphians to celebrate.

Because it is.

A jump to the Big East has been in the works for nearly a decade.

Now it's happening.

It really is happening.

The move will bring more exposure to the school, more money to the athletic department and more compelling games to the fans, and it might just turn that mess of a football program into something relevant, too. Those are all positives. But the move will also undeniably make Josh Pastner's job much more difficult. Twenty-five wins a season won't be practically guaranteed anymore. That's the downside of moving up in the world.


Since: Jan 22, 2008
Posted on: February 7, 2012 8:22 pm

Pastner's job just got a lot harder at Memphis

MemphisFan81, I agree with your post.  We have done well recruiting, with and without, Calipari.  Josh will do just fine.  We have been going against all the "big boys" being in CUSA so I do not see this move will be negative for Josh.   Seems we just can't get any love.

Since: May 13, 2010
Posted on: February 7, 2012 6:03 pm

Pastner's job just got a lot harder at Memphis

Sorry Gary...but your whining.  Josh is going to step up to the plate or your boys will be looking for another coach.  No..this will not be easy for the young coach.  But if he can't handle it, then Memphis has the wrong coach. Be he in the BIG EAST or in CUSA.  I can't believe you are worried for Josh.  It's about memphis baby!

Since: Jan 24, 2009
Posted on: February 7, 2012 5:54 pm

Pastner's job just got a lot harder at Memphis

What the writer fails to realize, those high level recruits that were considering Memphis but chose to go to a power conference will now choose Memphis. Those recruits that chose Memphis will welcome those other high level recruits with open arms.

Since: Dec 14, 2007
Posted on: February 7, 2012 5:40 pm

Pastner's job just got a lot harder at Memphis

It is a great time for Memphis to get out of that terrible MWC/Conference USA deal!  Did anybody notice those horror stories of Nevada Las Vegas and San Diego State traveling to Laramie Wyoming.  7,200 feet and blizards, then playing a good Wyoming team.  And UNLV lost rhere, too!  Trips to Fort Collins aren't much better!  It's only 5,000 feet and around 65 miles from Denver, but Winter conditions sometimes make that a three hour drive, after getting in the bus.  And SDSU lost there!  New Mexico plays in the fabled Pit in Albuquerque at about 5,400 feet, few teams escape from there with a victory.   UNLV may be easy to access, but another tough plavce to play.  The only savings grac for the new MWC/Conference USA merger is that San Diego State will no longer be in that conference.  Great place to visit, but not good basketball hosts.

Since: Dec 6, 2006
Posted on: February 7, 2012 5:24 pm

Pastner's job just got a lot harder at Memphis

Finally, a conference move that makes sense! (It's funny to think that as recently as just a few years ago, Memphis would have been a western outpost for the Big East. Now it seems like a perfect fit.) I do hope they somehow find room to bring Temple back eventually - maybe if Louisville joins the Big 12 or UConn joins the ACC. Regardless, I still think it's just a matter of time before the Big East gets decimated again by its bigger/better schools defecting to other conferences. For now though, I'm just glad to see a move that isn't simply about football. 

Since: Dec 2, 2011
Posted on: February 7, 2012 5:21 pm

Pastner's job just got a lot harder at Memphis

When Louisville, Marquette and Cincinatti left CUSA, it may have been easier for Memphis to win the conference, but it didn't help Memphis get to the Final Four. The fact that they made it there shows they were  a national power, not just a conference power. Gonzaga proves this point: they may rule their conference, but they have never made it to the Final Four.

Since: Jan 22, 2008
Posted on: February 7, 2012 5:18 pm

Pastner's job just got a lot harder at Memphis

You obviously do not know much about basketball and conferences.  It is the conference teams that contriol who gets in--not a team trying to get in.  Tennessee would never allow the University of Memphis into the SEC.  There would be too much recruiting issues to suit the VOLs.

Since: Nov 21, 2006
Posted on: February 7, 2012 5:16 pm

Pastner's job just got a lot harder at Memphis

In my mind this is best possible time to do it.  I don't think the difference between some of the bigger confs vs's smaller ones is as big as people think it is though.  I see them holding their own very quickly.

Since: Apr 20, 2009
Posted on: February 7, 2012 5:14 pm

Pastner's job just got a lot harder at Memphis

Six bids will be a decent year for B.E. 2.
With the new proposed members, the league would be a 7 bid league this year. That's only one less than they are projected to get now.

With UCF making strides in basketball, I think they are another possibility.

Don't kid yourself. The conference takes a hit in football (but Boise State may finally get a title that's good) but they will be fine in drop at all!.

Since: Feb 7, 2012
Posted on: February 7, 2012 5:09 pm

Pastner's job just got a lot harder at Memphis

GP I respect your comments and your view man but I think you're wrong on this. Memphis is alreay recruiting against those teams you mentoned. Heck Tarik Black almost went to Marquette before signing with Memphis. This same kind of thought process was used when John Calapari coached Memphis. People always said if that team was in any power conference we would be mid-tier at best and thats crap man. Talent is Talent period. If Josh can still recruit on a high level we will be fine. Cal is practically dominating the SEC because of his ability to get "Great Recruits". I feel our recruiting has just gotten easier for Josh versus harder. Whats the difference of recruiting against a coach in conference versus outside ? Will Barton was scheduled to go visit Kentucky but he chose Memphis. Vice Versa Bledsoe visitied Memphis and then Kentucky and chose Kentucky.

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