"Superior work ethic."
Tim Floyd? Mike Anderson?
Negative. Try Josh Pastner.
Talk about your "wow!" hire, indeed. It's just that it's on the other end of the spectrum; more of a panicked "OMG!" than a confident "LOL."
It very well could be that "who" is the new "wow."
However, before the Tiger faithful become to disenfranchised with the one worded quotations of sophomoric sports writers, it would fare them well to take a more in depth look at this most intriguing of hires.
There's a whole new world of pleasant pro's and conspicuous cons.
In the first 24 hours of his hiring alone, this element of Pastner's nascent arsenal has already been beaten into the ground. The ink has yet to dry on the man's contract and already folks are jaded.
But is he a one-trick pony? Or is it merely the tip of the talented ice burg?
The dossier on him would suggest the former. At the tender young age of 13, he had already written and published the Josh Pastner Scouting Report, a comprehensive guide to his native Houston's high school basketball scene.
Roughly four years earlier, he already knew he wanted to be a coach.
His father, Hal, remains an area legend in Houston, having been a successful coach and promoter. He founded Vision Sports, the organization that conducts AAU events across the country.
Having viable inroads in the AAU circuit are crucial to successful NCAA basketball recruiting. Big names and flashy experience aren't everything, which is why it could be argued that Memphis chose a young, up-and-comer as opposed to an NBA personality with free time on his hands (see: Reggie Theus).
With only one week to go until the national signing period commences, his work is cut out for him. However, it is significant that it was Pastner, not John Calipari, who was the key cog in the recruiting of DeMarcus Cousins and Xavier Henry.
In fact, Pastner was on the way out of town to Kentucky—to be Calipari's lead recruiter, no less—when he got the call from Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson.
"When an opportunity is given to you, you jump on it," he said at his introductory press conference Tuesday.
The fact that the remaining Tiger players seem to be uniting behind their new coach is also encouraging.
"We ain't going nowhere," said freshman Wesley Witherspoon, from the back of the room.
The Proverbial "Tremendous Upside"
Given his already impressive coaching tree pedigree—when Hall of Famer Lute Olson digs you, you're doing OK--the flattering comparisons are being made aplenty.
From Oklahoma's hiring of Jeff Capel to Kansas' choosing Roy Williams, the kid certainly is in good company.
Consider the similarities:
They all were hired in lieu of "the big name."
They all were expected to keep their respective programs rolling, in spite of the hard times, be it the loss of the previous coaches blue chip recruits (Capel, Pastner) or NCAA probation (Williams).
And they all took on programs where losing is unacceptable. Granted, being a rising star is not a bad place to be. But to be placed in a situation with virtually no allowance for a learning curve nor margin of error almost proves to be insurmountable.
Which is why for every Roy Williams, there are 50 Tic Prices and Matt Dohertys. It all depends on if your athletic director and fan base have a patient, rebuilding mentality or a "win now!" one.
Back to the Future?
Being a sports fan in this day and age of non loyalty is not that different from dating, really.
Your heart gets crushed by who you thought was your life partner. Yet oddly enough, you've found hope in the most unlikely of places. Yet before you've sprayed that first bit of cologne or perfume before your first date, you and your jaded self are already shooting down the positives.
"They just want sex," you might say, downplaying your own, genuine suitability.
Or, "She's probably using me for a rebound situation until she can go after my fireman acquaintance, Blake."
And so on. Next thing you know, you've already had your first fight before you have so much as had a legitimate conversation.
In many pessimistic Memphis fan circles, there is such an analogous vibe.
After one "rah!rah!," feel-good press conference, folks around water coolers, message boards and sports bars all over are no doubt dissecting the "what ifs" of a successful Pastner tenure.
You can almost hear it now:
"You know as soon as Arizona's (new coach Sean) Miller leaves, he's gonna bolt right back for the Wildcats."
"Like Kentucky, we'll just be a team waiting to be bought by those OTHER Wildcats, Arizona."
"If we are good, it will only be because he inherited Cal's team. He'll be another Bill Callahan!"
And thus, we assume we will find ourselves in the same situation that we were in for the past ten, tumultuous days.
Brought up, only to be let down.
Yet after viewing today's press conference, along with all the facts, one gets the feeling that Pastner wasn't merely dropping ear-pleasing sound bites. He lent a genuine air of credibility and optimism.
Of course, having your returning players vouch for you at the back of the room is also a good start.
Tiger fans, the doorbell is ringing.
Your success story awaits.