How Josh Pastner approaches the Tech-Georgia rivalry

Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner answers a question during the Atlantic Coast Conference NCAA college basketball men's media day in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Oct., 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

Georgia Tech head coach Josh Pastner answers a question during the Atlantic Coast Conference NCAA college basketball men’s media day in Charlotte, N.C., Wednesday, Oct., 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Bob Leverone)

Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner does not place any more value on the annual game with Georgia than any of the other 30 that the Yellow Jackets will play this season.

It’s probably anathema for some, or perhaps, most Tech fans, but Pastner said he places equal importance on all games.

“To me, Alcorn State is just as big as any other game we play,” Pastner said after the Jackets’ win over the Braves on Sunday. “Why? Because you don’t ever go into a game saying, ‘Eh, if you lose this game, it doesn’t matter.’ That’s why we have a scoreboard. You want to win.”

Pastner was asked about the matter again Monday.

“I’ve never coached in a game that isn’t important,” he said. “Alcorn State was just as important to me as any game we’ll play in the ACC. People might be surprised at that. I just know when we lose a game, I have such a strong distaste for losing that I can’t sleep. It’s sickening.”

Pastner’s stance on the annual rivalry game is different than predecessor Brian Gregory, who made clear his stress on the rivalry with Georgia. For instance, after the Jackets upset then-No. 4 Virginia last year, Gregory was asked if it was the biggest win of his tenure. He responded that wins over Georgia will always come first.

Perhaps Gregory’s most noteworthy achievement – certainly one of them – was his turning around the series with the Bulldogs. Tech was 4-1 against Georgia in his tenure after going 4-8 in the previous 12 years.

The difference in approach might stem from both coaches’ backgrounds. Gregory received his coaching grounding at Michigan State, whose rivalry with Michigan is particularly heated. He got his first head-coaching job at Dayton, which also has a strong in-state rivalry with Xavier.

Pastner came from Memphis, which he said doesn’t really have a natural rival. While he was coach there, Pastner was not in favor of playing Tennessee annually, because he didn’t see any benefit for his program and didn’t want to give Tennessee exposure in the city of Memphis by playing the Volunteers there. The series ended while he was there over the protests of many. (It will reportedly renew in the 2018-19 season.)

He played collegiately and got his coaching start at Arizona, which in the last 30 years has dominated in-state rival Arizona State. The Wildcats-UCLA rivalry has animus, but the schools are separated by more than 400 miles.

The idea that every game is important is entirely valid, as is Pastner’s other contention that Tech is at a point now where it can’t afford to place more focus on any one game. To Pastner, the important game is the next one, and then the one after that.

Tech fans like to hear that their coaches are as bloodthirsty to beat Georgia as they are. Some gladly serve that up and perhaps believe it, others don’t. They’re apparently not likely to hear it from Pastner, however. How much will that matter? It probably depends on whether he can beat Georgia.

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