By Matt Winkeljohn | The Good Word
Josh Pastner and his staff won’t do any serious coaching for a while, but Georgia Tech’s new men’s basketball brain trust is working extremely hard at something even more important: figuring out what they have and what they need.
The Yellow Jackets’ new head coach has filled out his coaching staff with assistants Eric Reveno, Darryl LaBarrie and Tavaras Hardy, and while they’ve been on the court this week for the first time for workouts with returning players, they’re not doing much teaching yet.
The coaches are playing roles more like the back end of a professor’s job; they’re grading.
Pastner has an up-tempo offensive system in mind, but before he and his staff install anything coaches want to understand the strengths and weaknesses of returning players with two goals. They want to see how they’re going to need to adjust schemes to fit players’ skill set, and get an idea how to target recruits.
“When you’re rebuilding, I the three most important things are staff, scheduling and recruiting,” said Pastner, who was hired six weeks ago from Memphis. “I think I’ve hired guys who are good evaluators. I’ve been very clear [about] the type of person I want to coach, what’s hard for me to coach with what I teach.
“Maybe Jimmy Joe is a good player, but maybe he doesn’t fit the system and maybe I’m not a good fit for him. Now, I have to adjust to our personnel, but I’ve been very clear about what I’m looking for and how we want to play.”
Once the Jackets get around to serious installation of X’s and O’s, Reveno will work chiefly with big men, LaBarrie primarily with the wing players and Hardy with guards, but that’s not chiseled in stone.
All coaches will work with all players, and Pastner went far and wide to assemble his staff.
He said before hiring any assistants that he would search for an assistant with heavy duty Atlanta connections, and that’s LaBarrie. After starring at Tucker High, he played at Georgia Tech from 1997-2001 and coached on The Flats under Paul Hewitt in 2009-11.
LaBarrie has familiarity with local high schools and AAU programs. He used those connections previously while assisting at Georgia State.
Reveno was the head coach at Portland for 10 years, and played and assisted before that at Stanford. Hardy comes from Northwestern, where he played and assisted.
“We’ll all cross [over],” Pastner said. “Whats’ great about Darryl, he obviously grew up here, played here, knows the area and the Southeast as well as anybody in the country. He understands what it takes to succeed here as a student-athlete, as a program and . . . he’s a very good coach on the floor.
“He’s very well respected by all the grass roots people. He’s very well respected here . . . Obviously, Darryl’s really good with the perimeter guys and Eric Reveno is known as one of the best big men coaches in the game.”
Pastner went into his coaching search with criteria beyond the ability of assistants to evaluate present and future players, and his boss added some.
Athletic director Mike Bobinski, a past chair of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Committee, hired multiple basketball head coaches while at Akron and Xavier. He was keenly involved.
“I wanted to hire guys who are going to be head coaches. Eric Reveno has been a successful head coach and will be again in time,” Pastner said. “Tavaras Hardy is going to be a head coach. Darryl LaBarrie is going to be a head coach. Five of my former assistants have gone on to be head coaches.
“This was a partnership with Mike Bobinski. Mike’s expertise in building businesses and partnerships . . . I was probably in contact with him 15 to 20 times a day. He probably got tired of me, but I wanted to get his feelings.”
With five players graduating or out of eligibility, nine players returning (including redshirts Sylvester Ogbonda and Abdoulaye Gueye) and freshmen Christian Matthews and Josh Okogie on the way to Tech, Pastner and his staff are recruiting potential transfers and high school prospects alike.
They’re looking for help in 2016-17 and beyond, and they – plural – are looking at talent and more.
“We’ve got to get good players, really good student-athletes that fit Georgia Tech,” the head coach said. “We’ve got to a really good class and when I say that I’m . . . not worried about winning recruiting rankings because in the end it’s about winning on the floor.
“It’s evaluating who is the right fit. Who is aligned to coach Pastner? He might not be the right fit for Georgia Tech just like I might not be the right fit for them. Evaluation is key to the process.”
Once the Jackets begin installing systems this summer, coaches will be specific in what they teach.
“It does no good to develop shots that they’re never going to get in our system or offensive pattern,” Pastner said. “Our workouts have to be conducive to the shots we’re going to be seeking. If you’re not going to get a curl-cut type of shot, from 15 feet, there’s no reason to spend hours on that shot.”
In seeking new players, however, assistants will not be tied to recruiting specific areas or types of players. Everybody will do everything.
“It’s not who I recruit. It’s we. It’s us. I want everyone to cross evaluate and cross check,” Pastner explained. “Maybe Johnny Joe in Portland is a point guard and he’s really good. Well, the coach there is close with Eric Reveno and just because Eric Reveno coaches bigs doesn’t mean that he should not be recruiting.
“I think the one area where you can’t have black and white is recruiting. You can’t say, `You’ve got to go here, and you’ve got to go there.’ That’s like saying because I came from Memphis I can only recruit Memphis, but what if I’ve got a dear friend in California [who has a talented player]?
“You’ve got to go where the players are, and we’re all recruiting for Georgia Tech. You come play for Georgia Tech because of the mission of Georgia Tech academically and socially and obviously for the head coach because it’s his system.”