Tech’s Pastner Feels Strength of Jewish Atlanta

Tech’s Pastner Feels Strength of Jewish Atlanta

Georgia Tech head basketball coach Josh Pastner is up to the task of rebuilding the program.

David R. Cohen

David R. Cohen is the former Associate Editor of the Atlanta Jewish Times. He is originally from Marietta, GA and studied Journalism at the University of Tennessee.

Josh Pastner (pictured in his office) is flying solo at Georgia Tech until he hires assistant coaches. (Photo by David R. Cohen)
Josh Pastner (pictured in his office) is flying solo at Georgia Tech until he hires assistant coaches. (Photo by David R. Cohen)

Rebuilding a collegiate basketball program is a daunting task, but if anyone’s up to the challenge, it’s new Georgia Tech men’s coach Josh Pastner.

The 38-year-old Jewish coach, who was hired April 8 from the University of Memphis, earned undergraduate and master’s degrees from the University of Arizona in only three and a half years while playing basketball for the school. Chat with him for five minutes and you’ll quickly sense his determination to bring the Georgia Tech basketball program back to prominence in Atlanta’s sports echelon.

Pastner talked with the AJT in his office Wednesday, April 27, about his Jewish roots, his family and his work to rebuild Georgia Tech basketball.

AJT: What has a day in the life of Josh Pastner been like the past few weeks?

Pastner: It’s been a whirlwind. It’s been nonstop, and it’s been fast, but I’ve loved every second of it. I wake up very early, go to bed very late, and I just feel that there’s not enough time in the day. Sometimes late at night I wish I was in the Pacific time zone so I had another three hours to get things done.

AJT: What made you decide to take this job?

Pastner: It’s just a great opportunity. You’re coaching in the ACC, which, besides the NBA, is the best basketball league in the country. That’s exciting. The Georgia Tech brand is exciting. Having an opportunity to build something from Ground Zero is exciting, and obviously all the great things about Georgia Tech and the city just made this a great move.

AJT: What does your family think of Atlanta? Have you settled on an area to live in town?

Pastner: They’ve only been here for about 24 hours. My wife is coming in to look at some houses. I love my family more than anything, but I couldn’t run the basketball program at Tech by myself and also take care of them at the same time. I need to get them out here sooner rather than later, though. I haven’t seen my wife or kids, and I need to go visit them. My wife is going to look around and hopefully find a good place for the family.

AJT: Have you looked into joining any synagogues here in town?

Pastner: I’ve gotten tons of emails from the Atlanta Jewish community already. I can tell it’s strong here. I was very active with the Jewish community when I was in Memphis and Arizona, so I’ve had a lot of people reach out to me, which is great. I just haven’t had time yet to really move on anything.

AJT: What was your Jewish upbringing like in Houston?

Pastner: I used to go to services a lot growing up in Texas, but I kind of drifted out of it. Not from a religious standpoint, but from a discipline standpoint. You know, you have high school basketball games on Friday nights and such, but I was a lot more active when I was at the University of Arizona and I tried to continue that at Memphis.

AJT: How did you manage to get your undergraduate and master’s degree in just three and a half years?

Pastner: So I got my bachelor’s degree in family studies in 2½ years. I took 45 hours my freshman year and 42 my sophomore year, which gave me 87 out of the 120 I needed to graduate. I took all 33 credit hours my fifth semester. Then in my sixth and seventh semesters I got my master’s in teaching and teacher education. I did it because I figured the next best thing to playing was coaching, and I thought a seriousness about academics would set me apart when I went in for interviews. The funny thing is, when I got the job at Memphis, they didn’t ask about that. I just got the job because no one else wanted it.

AJT: What do you do to unwind? Play basketball?

Pastner: I haven’t picked up a basketball in years. I have no interest in playing other than being on the practice floor with the guys shooting around here and there. Guys want me to come play five on five or three on three, and I just have no desire.

AJT: You spoke at the JCC Maccabi Games in Memphis. Have you been offered a spot coaching in the 2017 Maccabiah Games in Israel?

Pastner: I got asked, and they want me to do it next summer, but I don’t know if I can based on this new job. I really would like to do it, and everyone tells me it’s a great experience, but I’d be missing part of recruiting during a key time. If I was a little more tenured, I could probably do it.

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