Josh Pastner trying to address his weaknesses

LAS VEGAS, NV - NOVEMBER 28: Head coach Josh Pastner of the Memphis Tigers talks with a referee during a timeout in the team's game against the Indiana State Sycamores during the 2014 Continental Tire Las Vegas Invitational basketball tournament at the Orleans Arena on November 28, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Memphis won 72-62. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner said that because of his own weaknesses as a coach, “what I need to do  is surround myself with people that are good in the areas that I struggle with.” (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Now that Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner has his staff in place, a priority for him will be to make effective use of assistants Tavaras Hardy, Darryl LaBarrie and Eric Reveno.

In an interview with Pastner shortly after his hire, I asked him how he thought those he worked for at Memphis would evaluate his strengths and weaknesses.

“I would think they think there’s not a head coach in the country that has a better atmosphere of compliance,” he said. “He treats everyone the right way. That he’s a very good coach and he represents the university and the program at the highest level. I think they all would tell me that I need to do a way better job of delegating. I think that’s an important part.”

Pastner’s recognition of his shortcomings in delegating suggests one reason why his second tour as a head coach could go better than his first. One thing I’ve heard Pastner say more than once (he said it at Memphis, also) is that he’s a better coach than he was when he started seven years ago at age 31.

It perhaps goes without saying, but i don’t know that it’s often considered when examining a new hire or coaches who are in jeopardy of losing their jobs. Bill Belichick is perhaps the best example of a coach improving from his first head coach job to the second. (Not to suggest that Tech is about to embark on a journey to become the preeminent college basketball team in the country.) It’s a moot point, but it’s one reason why I thought keeping Brian Gregory could be viable – because he was a better coach this past season than he was when he was hired.

At any rate, if Pastner is smart enough to recognize his flaws, work at them and rely on staff who can cover for them, it will be a good thing for Tech. It may be a defining challenge of the Pastner tenure.

“There’s a lot of things that I need to do better,” Pastner said. “I’ve got to do a lot better in a lot of areas. I know my weaknesses. I know my weaknesses. I don’t hide from them. I know what are my areas that I struggle with. That’s why I need to do a great job of hiring, to help me in the areas that I struggle with.”

Pastner also gave insight into a way he sought for his tenure at Tech to differ from his seven-year run at Memphis. He said he doesn’t want to be around staff that aren’t self-driven.

“I don’t need a ring or something to motivate me to be self-driven,” he said. “That’s part of my philosophy change. Everyone around me has to be driven. It might not all be the same level but they’ve got to be somewhere in that vicinity of understanding they’ve got to be driven like that in some way shape or form. Otherwise the alignment won’t work. That’s part of my learning from being at Memphis, of being a head coach.”

It was along this line of thought, by the way, that Pastner’s comments about not hiring an assistant who plays golf regularly came up.

At Memphis, Pastner had 11 assistant coaches in seven years (counting Damon Stoudamire’s two stints as two). Three were hired away to become head coaches. At least three others were dismissed.

In Hardy, LaBarrie and Reveno, Pastner has what appear to be capable assistants worthy of taking work off of his plate, each with strengths of his own. In the news releases announcing their hires, both Hardy and LaBarrie vowed to “work tirelessly.” It’s not exactly a shocker that they would promise to work hard, but it’s interesting to note.

I should say that I appreciate Pastner’s willingness to admit weakness beyond a trite “I’m not perfect.” I think it’s easy and tempting for someone in his position to project an image of invulnerability, but as a method of building a following, it’s pretty short-sighted. Acting like you’ve got it all figured out will only benefit you until you screw up, which is obviously inevitable.

Time will tell how Pastner changes his style. Interestingly, in response to the question about how he thought his superiors viewed him, Pastner had another observation.

“I think they would probably say that it’s O.K. to stay home on Sunday with your family,” he said. “I think that would be something they would say.”

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