Will Askew is a co-host of The Morning Rush on Sports 56 WHBQ weekdays from 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.
During the postgame radio show after the Memphis Tigers’ 60-58 win over Southern Miss Wednesday night, Josh Pastner criticized those he termed “radio heads” and said that “If you don’t think Houston is a good basketball team, you know nothing about basketball.” Certainly sensitivity to media criticism is nothing new; former coach John Calipari famously said he didn’t read the newspaper or listen to the radio while simultaneously locking out members of the media he deemed to be too “miserable.” Calipari, though, is widely regarded as somewhat paranoid, and as his teams were routinely making Elite Eight trips, there wasn’t too much to be miserable about.
Pastner makes no bones about the fact that he is an avid radio listener and consumer of all things sports. From time to time, he will just call in our radio show, the Morning Rush on Sports 56, unannounced if he hears us talking about a topic worthy of his input. I find it quite refreshing that a coach, instead of publicly denying any interest in the media while privately blackballing members he doesn’t like, admits to listening and is extremely accessible. This fits into Pastner’s personality; what you see is what you get. He is what he is, and he’s honest about it.
However, Pastner’s latest stab at the “radio heads” smacks of oversensitivity and is insulting to the intelligence of listeners. In his now a little more than two years as a head coach, Pastner has been handled with kid gloves. After being given a deserved free pass his first year when John Calipari left him with little to work with, Pastner was largely immune from criticism when last year’s much-ballyhooed freshman class failed to live up to expectations with a 4th place C-USA finish. As the freshman have become sophomores and all save Will Barton and his brother Antonio could be looked at as disappointments, as Wesley Witherspoon has plodded through his four seasons without becoming one iota better than he was as a freshman, as his team is routinely beaten by Top 25 opponents, the media has largely left Pastner alone. Why, then, is he so sensitive?
This is not to mention his comment about Houston, which is just insulting to people’s intelligence. His statement that “If you don’t think Houston is a good basketball team, you know nothing about basketball” is either an attempt to pump up a terrible conference opponent or is a Get Out of Jail Free Card in case the Tigers unexpectedly fall this weekend. There are good teams in C-USA; the Tigers beat one of them Wednesday night. But don’t try and sell me Houston, whose RPI is in the mid-200s. In fact, I would amend his statement to “If you THINK Houston is a good basketball team, you know nothing about basketball.”
Josh Pastner has done an adequate, if unspectacular, job as Tiger basketball coach. His team will win the C-USA Tournament and head to its second straight NCAA tournament. If he fails to make any noise there, Pastner’s long media honeymoon may finally be over. This team was expected to do big things, and if they don’t, someone will be criticized for it; that person is likely to be Pastner.
If he’s this sensitive about criticism now though, how will he react when the heat really gets turned up?