July 27, 2012
THE FLATS – The opportunity to work in the Atlantic Coast Conference in at a school in the city of Atlanta is a pretty compelling combination for a young coach. Josh Postorino got an early coaching opportunity at an ACC school, Clemson, and when he got the chance to come to Georgia Tech, it was too good to pass up.
Too good even to stay with his mentor, Oliver Purnell, the current DePaul head coach who recruited Postorino to Dayton and gave him his first coaching job, first with the Flyers and then again with the Tigers. The second-year Tech assistant experienced good times at Clemson, helping the Tigers to three NCAA Tournaments and three 20-win seasons.
Oddly enough, the two ACC stops on his coaching resume were also school at which he took unofficial visits when looking at colleges as a high school prep star.
Through it all, he remembers back to camps he attended as a kid run by “Pistol” Pete Maravich, who made quite an impression on a young Postorino, and where he learned much about the game of basketball that still guides his coaching regimen today.
Sting Daily sat down with Postorino to talk about basketball and other things.
What are words or a phrase you would use to describe yourself?
“I would say hard-working, resilient. I like those two words. You kind of learn how to do things that way. When you begin to have success doing things that way, they kind of work for you and you keep working hard and being resilient through a lot of things and achieve you goals. I got them from my parents and from growing up through experiences.”
How did you get started playing basketball as a kid?
“I started playing basketball when I was seven or eight years old. I went to the Pistol Pete Maravich Basketball Camp that he held in Clearwater, Fla. He and his Dad ran the camp, and this was right after he got done playing. He taught me how to play basketball, Pistol Pete himself. He was unbelievable at that time. He had the camp at Clearwater Christian College. His Dad was there the first year, then he passed away. I went for three or four years to the camp, then Pete passed away. Then I worked the memorial camp with a bunch of other people when I was in high school. So I learned how to play basketball from Pistol Pete Maravich.
How much did you know about Pete Maravich?
“I didn’t know much at the time, but I learned. It was a four or five-day camp. He would do lectures and never miss a shot. He’d shoot, or handle the ball or throw behind his back while he was talking for 30 minutes and never miss a beat. He was amazing with the ball, and we would sit there with our mouths wide open watching him. He could hit shot after shot from 20 or 25 feet while he was talking for 20 minutes. So we certainly learned about him pretty quickly, and we watched a lot of highlight films of him as well. He never touted himself, but always made the point of how hard you have to work to be a great player.
“And the stories about him growing up, dribbling the ball outside the car as he was riding and the stuff that was in the movie about him – he did those things and told every one of those stories.”
What did you learn in those camps that still resonates with you and you use in your coaching?
“Everyone knows about the Pistol Pete ball handling drills. He made tapes that we watched growing up. I went in the back yard and did the drills. We do those ball handling drills in our practices each day. So there’s a bunch of technical stuff I do. He went through a lot of things in his life – blowing through money, drugs – and he told us about those experiences. That you had to set goals and do the right thing. He was a born-again Christian at the time, and that was central to his message. That’s something that I’ve kept with me.”
What other sports did you play as a kid? What led you to concentrate on basketball?
“I played it all. I played baseball all the way through high school; I was a third baseman and pitched some. I played football until high school. I played tennis. I swam on the swim team. I did triathlons. Growing up, my parents exposed me to a ton of stuff. The only sport I didn’t play much was soccer. I did for about two years real early. But I played everything else.”
At what point did you start to concentrate on basketball?
“I really was concentrating on basketball the whole way, ninth grade on was when I really started getting better. I was just playing baseball at that time when the basketball season was over. In the summers, all I did was play basketball. I really wasn’t concentrating on baseball, but we had a really good team, went to two finals fours in a row, championship game in Florida. We had three or four guys get drafted off our team, so it was a good experience.”
What led you to a career in coaching? Can you pinpoint a time in your life when you decided to become a coach?
“My senior year at Dayton, I couldn’t play. I had a health issue and couldn’t play. Coach (Oliver) Purnell asked me if I’d like to be a student assistant coach. I didn’t know anything about it, but I fell in love with it then, and he gave me the chance and a couple years later hired me to his staff.
“One of the things that drew me in was how hard the coaching staff worked, how they worked together. How you manage a program; you don’t have any idea about that as a player; all the different things you have to deal with from the administration side to the raising money side to the media side. All those things were fascinating to me at that time and got me going into it.”
Who would you consider your biggest influence(s) in becoming a basketball coach and for how you handle your daily business?
“I think it’s Oliver. He offered me a scholarship, I played for him, and I coached for him for a long time. He taught me many things, personally and professionally. He helped me along the way through my career. I would pinpoint him as my mentor in college basketball.”
What coach, college or pro, do you consider the best in the business? Why?
“Brian Gregory, of course. What are you talking about? I really don’t have just one. I think Greg Popovich (San Antonio Spurs) does an unbelievable job. I love seeing his teams play and how he coaches those guys, how they handle themselves. They do an unbelievable job.”
Are there people that you point to, take things from?
“We all steal things from everybody. Over the years of coaching and the more experience you get, you watch so many games and film, and scouted so many teams, and you like certain things that you see done. I wouldn’t say there is one program or one coach that you would say, I want to be like that guy.”
Up to now, what has been the thing that has brought you the most satisfaction as a coach, a favorite player, a favorite stop in your career, something your team accomplished…?
“When I was at Clemson, we had a good run four of five years ago in the ACC Tournament, which was kind of the start of Clemson basketball again. They hadn’t been to the NCAA Tournament in several years. We finished third in the ACC, beat Duke in the ACC semifinals in Charlotte and played North Carolina in the finals. We should’ve won that game, up eight with a few minutes to go, but we lost. We went to the NCAA Tournament for the first time with (Purnell) as head coach. Then we went three years in a row after that. We took great pride in building that program, and Oliver did an unbelievable job with that program from where it had been.”
What about the game of basketball really draws you in, motivates you, and makes it a great game?
“It’s such a team sport. I love the chemistry of the team, the inner workings of the team, and how you get each part of a team to do certain roles. I love playing the game and the competitiveness of the game, and how skilled you have to be to play basketball. You’re running and dribbling a ball, and shooting the ball into a little ring. There’s so much skill involved in basketball. But I like the team aspect; building a team and seeing everyone work hard together.”
Is that the biggest challenge a coach has today?
“I think so. Obviously you need players. But you see it all the time, a group of great players that mesh well together, give more to each other than they do to themselves. That’s when you can accomplish a lot of things. On our staff, everybody has been a part of those types of teams, whether as a coach or a player. It’s neat when that all comes together.”
Do you have a favorite professional team? Which is it and why?
“I like the Tampa Bay Rays, being from there. I’m a huge Buccaneer fan. The Magic. Funny thing was, we didn’t have (major league) baseball at the time (in Florida) when I was growing up, and there were only two teams on TV at the time, the Braves and the Cubs. So I became a Cubs fan. I like the Braves, and my whole family loves the Braves. My Dad grew up in Milwaukee, so he was a big Milwaukee Braves fan, and following them down to Atlanta, we watched them all the time. Those are my teams.
“I’ve been to a few Braves games. The first major league game I ever went to, my parents took me and my brother to Fulton County Stadium, and we saw the Braves play the Expos. I was just nine years old, and Bob Horner hit four home runs in that game. That was the first game I ever went to.
“When I lived in Chicago (working at DePaul), I lived three blocks from the Wrigley Field. Every game, people parked on my street, it was so close. We did a lot of rooftop events there for boosters. I’ve been to 10-15 Braves games. Haven’t been this year.
“It’s been fun to watch the Rays the last few years. They have some fun characters on the team. I love baseball, probably second behind basketball, and try to watch it a lot.”
Is there an activity or hobby off the court that you really enjoy?
“My family. I have a 4-year-old boy and a 9-month-old little girl. When you have those two, you don’t have time for much else. Besides this job and the team, spending time with the family is my hobby now. I used to play golf, but I don’t play anymore now. I haven’t played in a while, unless it’s an outing for work. To get out for four hours is not easy to do.”
How difficult is it to balance family and work for a college coach?
“You have to have a special wife to do it, because it’s hard, being away for long periods of time, recruiting, traveling. I’ve seen this with other coaches, as your kids get older, they start enjoying what you’re doing, being around the college campus and games. But right now, it’s difficult to balance all that. We’re lucky and blessed to be living in a nice area, and my wife loves it.”
Do you like music? Do you or have you ever played an instrument? What kind of music do you like to listen to most?
“I’m very versatile with music, hip-hop to jazz to country to some different rock and roll. I don’t have a real favorite, but I like a lot of new stuff. We have to stay in the times dealing with 18-to-22 year-olds.”
What’s the most recent music you added to your iPod or music player? Or, what station do you have your car radio set to the most?
“I’m more of a Pandora guy. I have my stations that I create. I have a hip-hop station, a country station, a Jason Mraz station, a beach station. I have a lot of different stations.”
If you’re driving in your car, is there a favorite station you listen to?
“I listen to sports talk. I listen to Wes, first off, on 790, but I listen to all of it around here. I listen to some national stuff, I like Mike and Mike, but mostly I like the local stuff and know what’s going on around the city.”
Do you like to cook? If so, what is your favorite thing to make?
“I do the grilling, and my wife does the other cooking. But we don’t cook a ton with those two little ones running around. We love eating out, though, and go to a lot of family-friendly places when we can. Before we had the baby in Chicago, me and my wife went to lots of good places. Here, with the baby, we haven’t done as much. We love Taco Mac, my son loves that place.”
If you had a date night with your wife, where would you go?
“We went to Chops lobster bar one night. We went to Six Feet Under over here. I’m a sushi person, but she doesn’t, so I have to do that on my own. We’ve been to Capital Grille a couple of times.”
Where did you go on your last vacation? Is there a favorite spot you like to visit regularly?
“We go to Hilton Head a lot with my wife’s family. They rent a place for a week, and we really like Hilton Head a lot, very relaxing and a great place to get away. It’s pretty much an annual thing; my mother-in-law has been getting a place there. Just in May, we took our family to Disney World and visited Clearwater. My son had been to Disneyland before when we played in the Anaheim Classic.”
What is your favorite getaway spot – beach, lake or mountains?
“I grew up five minutes from the beach in Clearwater, Fla., so that’s why I love the beach. That’s my favorite place to go.”
Do you read books, see movies, watch TV? Current favorite? All-time favorite?
“I don’t watch much TV, mostly sporting events. I was definitely into the Sopranos, though, and a couple of the really good HBO series, like Boardwalk Empire. I can’t sit still for two hours and see a movie.”
Do you, or did you as a youngster, have a nickname? How did you get it?
“When I played, nobody could pronounce Postorino, so they would call me `Posto,’ `Posh,’ `P,’ `J.P.’ Those are the ones I’ve been called mostly. `Coach P.'”
Do you have a favorite attraction or place in Atlanta that you have regularly visited?
“We go to our pool a lot. We have a community pool, so we go there. We love taking the kids out there, get out in the sun and enjoy the weather when we’ve got free time. We love going to Braves games and being outside. My wife likes Buckhead, shopping, so we’ve gone there a bunch. We’ve visited a lot of different places. We love the Georgia Aquarium.”
What was your perception of Georgia Tech basketball BEFORE YOU HAD ANY IDEA YOU WOULD COME TO WORK HERE?
“I’ve always admired Georgia Tech basketball. They’ve always been very good. When I was growing up, they had great years with Coach Cremins. I never knew what a nice school this is, from the academic side to the people here. You never really know that until you come here and work here. You drive down 75 and you see the gym, and know about the great players and the great atmosphere. That was my perception.
“I actually took an unofficial visit here when I was in high school. We were driving up north to the mountains or something over Christmas. We stopped in and I met with Coach (Kevin) Cantwell. We watched a game and talked a little bit. They walked us around the football field. I was a sophomore in high school. I was getting some letters, but I wasn’t good enough to play in the ACC by any stretch. I came here and also visited Clemson, went to a football game there. Now I’ve worked at both places. Who knew?”