Pastner rebuilds quickly

From his first season at the University of Memphis to now, things aren't all that different for Josh Pastner.

From his first season at the University of Memphis to now, things aren't all that different for Josh Pastner.

The third-year Memphis coach still doesn't curse, sleep, or drink soda. If anything, he said, his sleep patterns have probably gotten worse.

"I'm a non-sleep guy and I'm always on the go," he said. "When I have some downtime, I don't know what to do with myself."

But it's highly likely Pastner won't need to worry about having any downtime this season.

In the span of just two full seasons as head coach at Memphis, Pastner has gone from having just seven scholarship players to boasting a preseason No. 11-ranked squad, a turnaround even the once 16-year-old coaching prodigy didn't foresee.

"Everyone was going with Coach (John) Calipari (to Kentucky in 2009)," Pastner said. "I was going. We were starting from the back end. We were just trying to stay above water."

If the Memphis program was in danger of going under after Calipari's departure, Pastner has undoubtedly acted as its life preserver. Although the Tigers missed the NCAA tournament in Pastner's first season, they won the Conference USA tournament last year and are poised for a return to the national stage in 2011-12.

"I'm still learning," Pastner said. "I don't think you ever stop learning. I'm a better coach now than the first year. Each year, you get better. My philosophy is to keep things simple. I'm not overcomplicated. I let players make plays. I just try to have structure."

Shortly after Pastner was promoted from assistant to head coach in April 2009, the Memphis program was rocked by an NCAA scandal involving Calipari's recruitment of Derrick Rose and his SAT. The Tigers were forced to vacate their 2007-08 season, in which they finished national championship runners-up.

Regardless, Pastner was able to lock up a 2010 class littered with five-star recruits like Joe Jackson and Will Barton, who both figure to play major roles for the team this season.

Lute Olson, Pastner's former coach at Arizona, said that's been Pastner's biggest accomplishment while at Memphis.

"While there was some question about what could happen as a result of Calipari's recruitment of Derrick Rose, he's been able to overcome that by hard work," Olson said. "He communicates well with everyone. That's not an easy thing to do."

Despite his rapid success with the Tigers, however, Pastner said he's not responsible for maintaining the program's elite level. All he credit, he said, goes to the fan base.

"The internal expectations and debt of gratitude I have for this city is what makes this possible," Pastner said. "That's the driving force that keeps me going every split second without any stopping."

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