When Josh Pastner left Arizona for an assistant’s job at Memphis last May, he said the move gave him “a chance to stretch my wings.”
And stretch them he did – so far that the 31-year-old was named head coach on Monday, replacing John Calipari, who is the new coach at Kentucky.
Pastner, a former UA player and assistant coach, will be introduced at 10 a.m. Tucson time Tuesday, Memphis spokesman Bob Winn said.
“I’m very proud of Josh, very proud,” former UA associate head coach Jim Rosborough said. “I think he’s going to be an awfully good coach.
“I remember bringing him here in 1996 and he helped us win a national title.”
Pastner did not return telephone or e-mail messages left Monday seeking comment.
Rosborough said he wouldn’t speculate about Pastner’s staff, “but I’d be happy to join him.”
Pastner was believed to be headed to Kentucky as an assistant coach after Calipari was named head coach there last week.
Under Calipari last year, Pastner was instrumental in securing for Memphis the nation’s top-ranked recruiting class for the upcoming season, although several of those players backed out of their commitments while the coaching situation was in limbo.
Pastner was a lead recruiter in Lute Olson’s last season two years ago and the top assistant for interim coach Kevin O’Neill during the 2007-08 campaign.
In the past week, several UA players from the 1997 national championship team began speaking out on Pastner’s behalf, campaigning for him to be named the new coach of the Wildcats.
“Josh is my age and he’s about to get paid,” former Wildcat center Eugene Edgerson said Monday. “I really support Josh and he’s a workaholic. If you work hard, it will pay off and people will recognize it. I’m a firm believer in that.”
Asked last week about his desire to one day be a head coach, Pastner said he has been blessed to learn from some of the game’s best coaches.
“I was so fortunate to be at Arizona, one of the great schools of all time,” Pastner said. “I was able to learn so much from Lute Olson, one of the great coaches of all time.
“Last year, I worked under Kevin O’Neill, who was able to work under Jeff Van Gundy, and then this year at Memphis, I was able to work with Cal (Calipari). The guy is the best coach in the game, period. NBA, college, anywhere, he is the best in the game.”
It is unclear how much Pastner will be paid at Memphis. He earned $200,000 a year as an assistant during the 2008-09 season.
Pastner began coaching at UA in 2000, when he was named an undergraduate assistant under Olson. He served as a video and recruiting coordinator during the 2001-02 season before taking over as an assistant coach in April 2002.
It didn’t take long for Pastner, a fan favorite, to win over the community. He spoke to various groups and raised money for charities, hoping to make a difference.
“I love doing it,” Pastner said last May. “I adore the community. This is the most charitable community. That’s why it’s so hard to leave.”
While in high school and in college, Pastner coached AAU squads, following in the footsteps of his father, Hal Pastner, an acclaimed AAU coach in Houston.
Memphis athletic director R.C. Johnson said last week that he planned to hire a new coach who would “wow” Tiger fans – one with head coaching experience. Names that surfaced during the search included Tennessee’s Bruce Pearl, Baylor’s Scott Drew and Florida State’s Leonard Hamilton.
Memphis also inquired about USC’s Tim Floyd, Missouri’s Mike Anderson, and former Xavier coach Sean Miller – who took the Arizona job.