He has a reputation as a phenomenal recruiter, and his record backs that up. He had 16 signees ranked in the ESPN top 100, 10 of whom were in the top 50 and four of whom were in the top 25. Among them was forward Shaq Goodwin from Southwest DeKalb High, rated the No. 31 prospect of the 2012 class.
Memphis’ 2010 class – his first – was rated No. 3 in the country by 247 Sports, as was the Tigers’ 2013 class.
While his recruiting work is well documented, his reputation as an in-game coach is not as strong. Despite the talent, he was 5-26 against top-25 opponents and was not able to lead the Tigers past the second round of the NCAA tournament in four attempts.
That said, he was 31 when he was hired at Memphis and has presumably developed as a coach over time, something he has said at various points.
One of his significant coaching influences was Arizona legend Lute Olson. Pastner played for the Wildcats from 1996 to 2000 and was a little-used member of the 1997 national championship team. He was on staff with Arizona for two seasons and then was an assistant coach for seven seasons before leaving for Memphis to be an assistant to John Calipari.
Said Olson in 2009 of his decision to add Pastner to the roster, “I didn’t know what it was going to be, but I just knew that, in some way or another, that Josh was going to add something to our program. I had seen him coach and I’d seen him interact with the players on that AAU team. It was obvious there was something different about him, something special.”
Coach at 16
Perhaps the most famous story about Pastner is that he took over his father’s AAU team – the Houston Hoops – when he was 16. That meant coaching (and playing), fundraising, scouting and travel. He recruited notables such as eventual NBA players Emeka Okafor, Daniel Gibson and T.J. Ford. At 13, he published a scouting report on local high-school prospects that he sent to college coaches.
“It was a lot of time,” Pastner said in 2009, “but I loved it. It’s all I wanted to do.”