Memphis Basketball: This Wasn't Supposed To Happen, but It Did

Ryne E. HancockCorrespondent IMarch 8, 2010

"If John Calipari leaves the University of Memphis, it's not the end of the world. Trust me, it isn't."

Those were the words I said on WHBQ-TV the same day that John Calipari took his prized recruiting class, the secretaries, and even made a door a celebrity in the process.

For a span of a week and a half, I, along with almost every Tiger basketball fan, wondered who would be the next basketball coach.

The search became so big of a joke during that time span, I actually told friends at school that I was considering taking the position and bringing my own assistants.

"I know the University, my mom works there, and I know talent when I see it," I told my friend Brittney.

Certainly, R.C. Johnson wasn't about to take a chance on a 23 year-old running a college basketball program who once coached his neighborhood basketball team to 29 wins his first season and the Ayoka Cup (neighborhood basketball title) in Whitehaven back in 2002.

But after all the talk of a "wow" hire, going after Tim Floyd, Mike Anderson, and even Bruce Pearl for the coaching job, Johnson probably made one of the best moves this side of hiring John Calipari back in 2000.

A guy who was already focused on Lexington, packed everything up for a chance to learn from Calipari as an assistant, gets a call from Johnson to come to his house and then in a surprising move, is asked to take over a program who a year before went to the national championship game and coming off a Sweet 16 appearance.

That guy was Josh Pastner.

As I sat in my favorite hangout at Poplar Plaza on the day of his press conference, I texted my friends and asked them what their thoughts were on this guy.

"Memphis basketball is going to be fine," my friend Melvin said to me via text message.

Since that day, Pastner and his staff nabbed the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, nearly beat the No. 1 Kansas Jayhawks in St. Louis, which would have made some of my neighbors rather angry at me afterwards, and racked up another 20-win season in the process, finishing two games behind UTEP in the Conference USA standings.

"If you had told me in April that this team was going to record 20 wins, I would have been doing backflips on Beale Street," he said.

Of course, he wouldn't have been the only one.

After beating UAB in Birmingham and Tulsa at home Saturday, the Tigers have a first-round bye in the Conference USA Tournament and according to Joe Lunardi, are in the last four selected for the NCAA Tournament.

Should the Tigers make the Big Dance, I think I may take up that offer of doing backflips on Beale Street.

It's for the best, don't you think?