Mar 17, 2012, 3:44 PM EDT
In-fighting, crying and a missed opportunity.
That’s the Memphis Tigers 2012 NCAA Tournament appearance summed up in a concise lede.
Chris Crawford was peeved at Will Barton for his shot selection, Barton ended up crying in the post-game press-conference and, as a result, a team that had won their last seven games and boasted top 10 talent were bounced by a more disciplined Saint Louis squad.
With the loss, Tiger fans are flocking to their favorite medium to express their disdain - not just disappointment – for Pastner, who was heralded as a young coaching prodigy when he replaced John Calipari.
Watch last night’s game and it’s clear Rick Majerus outcoached Pastner. Playing at the pace they wanted, the Billikens overcame an eight point second-half deficit, got Tarik Black in foul trouble, and took advantage of a Tigers team that shot just 39 percent from the floor with an alarming 19 percent assist rate.
The grace period for the Tigers head coach is now over, and a reality check is in order.
There’s no doubt that Pastner can recruit: three McDonalds All-Americans (which does not include Barton) during his tenure, but there’s a lot of question of whether or not he can coach. Pastner is 75-29 overall in his first three seasons with zero NCAA Tournament wins or victories over a top 25 team.
John Calipari went 71-31 in his first three seasons in Memphis but 104-10 in final three years. Many fans were hoping for a near seamless transition between the two coaches, not something that stunk of rebuilding work.
But at the same time, Pastner apologists exist, and between them and impatient fans who can’t quite believe how much their basketball team has fallen in the past three years, there’s surely to be plenty of back-and-forth banter between fans this off-season with no hope of finding common ground.
The bottom line is that Calipari made Memphis a brand name. He’s the one whose success turned them into an elite program and earned the school an invite to the Big East.
When they join, the Tigers will no longer have a cupcake regular season schedule. They’re going to have to bring it night-in and night-out, relying on far more than just talent. Some sort of execution of a sound game plan will be imperative for success.
I’m not saying Josh Pastner can’t do it, but I am saying that his coaching seat will probably feel a bit warm entering next season.
Follow Nick Fasulo on Twitter @billyedelinSBN
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