Wilt Chamberlain was so paranoid during his playing days with the Philadelphia 76ers that he asked the team’s ballboy — Josh Pastner’s father — to take a sip of his 7Up before the Hall of Famer would drink it.
Pastner, now the Georgia Tech coach, can relate to those feelings of paranoia to some degree. As much as he enjoyed the seven years of his first head coaching job at Memphis, there were times when the pressure from his position was so bad, particularly following a loss, that he was afraid to be in public or go out to eat in a restaurant.
“I got the head job there at 31, taking over for John Calipari, who in the four years prior had the most wins in NCAA history for a four-year period,” Pastner said. “It’s Alabama football in a 50-mile radius. For seven years I was questioned, debated, chronicled, talked about. For seven years, you lived in a fishbowl. Some liked it, some didn’t. I was thrown in the fire from Day 1. I felt like a prisoner in my home sometimes. When we lost I felt like I let down the whole city. I couldn’t go eat. You just felt like people were glaring at you with their eyes. Is someone going to start doing something to my food? You get paranoid.”
Those were among many revealing comments from Paster in a raw and unscripted hour on the “We Never Played The Game,” co-hosted by WSB TV’s Zach Klein and yours truly.
The podcast is linked here. You also can subscribe and download and listen to all episodes on the show’s iTunes page (click here).
A few other comments from Pastner:
• In response to a question about what we will be able to say about the Georgia Tech basketball program in 2020: “We’re going to be a championship level program.”
• He acknowledges Tech likely will struggle this season — the Jackets were picked to finish 14th in the ACC at the conference’s recent media day — and that the subject came up during his job interview with then Tech athletic director Mike Bobinski: “Mike Bobinski told me, ‘You might not win a game. Can you handle not winning a game in the ACC in your first year?’ Of course, I told him yes at the time. … I don’t know. I haven’t been through that. I just have to remind myself will look different in Year 3 than it will in Year 1.”
• There’s lot of great stuff about Pastner’s ahead-of-the-curve initiative as a youth, including writing his own scouting reports at the age of 13 (some college coaches wanted to purchase it from him) and applying for the Los Angeles Clippers job at the age of 19. (He didn’t get it, but, “Maybe I’m glad I didn’t.”)
• Pastner’s father and grandfather filmed Chamberlain’s famous 100-point game from the time Chamberlain had 34 points. He said a copy of the reel-to-reel film still exists in a storage facility in Philadelphia but he hasn’t viewed it. The Pro Basketball Hall of Fame has contacted Pastner’s father about the film and other memorabilia but “he hasn’t taken the time to go through boxes,” yet.”
Pastner also discusses what it’s going to take for Tech to land top recruits, keep talent from leaving the state and build the program. There’s a lot of good stuff packed into the one-hour discussion, so take a listen.
Also, if there’s anybody you would like interviewed on the podcast, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Subscribe for free to the, “We Never Played The Game” podcast with Jeff Schultz and WSB’s Zach Klein on iTunes. All episodes can be downloaded and heard on iTunes or here via WSBRadio.com. New episodes every Monday and Thursday.
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