Last November, Arizona assistant basketball coach Josh Pastner
was on a date when he felt his cellphone vibrate. Recognizing the
number of a prized recruit, 6'10" forward Ndudi Ebi from Houston,
Pastner excused himself from one promising prospect and spent the
rest of the movie talking to another. Two weeks later Ebi signed
with the Wildcats, but Pastner's budding romance fizzled. "On his
dates his phone will ring or he'll be watching TV during dinner,"
says Arizona associate head coach Jim Rosborough. "No girl will
go out with him very long."
Pastner, 25, has been making sacrifices to his hoops obsession
nearly his whole life. When he was 10, his father, Hal, founded
the Houston Hoops AAU team, and Josh often traveled with the team
around the country. At 13 he launched The Josh Pastner Scouting
Report, a 100-page annual based on his observations of national
AAU talent. Three years later Hal handed his son the coaching
In the summer of '95 Josh, then a high school senior, sent a
letter to Rosborough inviting the Arizona staff to a workout in
Houston to check out his team's college prospects. Rosborough was
impressed with the workout--and with the precocious Pastner. "I
just called him every Sunday for a year," says Pastner. A slow
5'9" point guard at Kingwood High, Pastner was hardly Division I
material, but he marketed himself as a "coach in training."
Rosborough and coach Lute Olson offered Josh an athletic
At his first team meeting, Pastner stood up and preached the
value of hard work to All--Pac-10 guard Miles Simon and future
NBAers Mike Bibby, Michael Dickerson and Jason Terry. The players
laughed. Soon, though, Simon started doing the drills Pastner had
recommended to help his stroke. Bibby joined the workouts, and
then Terry and forward Bennett Davidson. Says Bibby, now a point
guard with the Sacramento Kings, "A lot of those drills I still
By season's end Bibby and Pastner had become roommates. Arizona
finished fifth in the Pac-10 but caught fire in the NCAA
tournament and stormed to the national title.
Pastner averaged just 0.9 points a game in four seasons but
contributed in other ways. By his senior year he was scouting
opponents, breaking down film and running the scout team at
practice. After serving as a graduate assistant, administrative
assistant and recruiting coordinator, last summer he was hired as
Pastner makes no bones about his goal of being a head coach. In
the summer of '98, following his sophomore year at Arizona, he
applied for the vacant Los Angeles Clippers head coaching
position. Since then he has sent his resume whenever an NBA head
job has opened. The last two summers he has pursued Division I
positions at Prairie View A&M and Texas Southern. Both times he
visited the campuses uninvited, introducing himself to the
president and the athletic director. He was seriously considered
by each school. Prairie View athletic director Charles McClelland
ultimately chose Jerome Francis Jr., 10 years Pastner's senior,
but says, "Josh is going to be a heck of a coach someday."
Meanwhile Pastner will continue his tireless efforts for the
Wildcats. He sleeps four hours a night and is at his office daily
by 7 a.m. He lives in a one-bedroom apartment 10 minutes from
campus, stocks only milk and cereal in the kitchen and uses
plastic forks and paper plates. "I'm a different dude," says
"He's way beyond his years in terms of his understanding of the
game," says Olson. "I think he really wins over guys with his
dedication to making them better."
Still, Rosborough tries to find Pastner some nonbasketball
interests--namely female companionship. "I feel very lucky to
know exactly what I want to do," says Pastner. "Whoever I date is
going to have to understand that this is who I am."
COLOR PHOTO: RENEE SAUER PRODIGY Pastner coached AAU ball at 16 and applied for his first NBA head-coaching job while still playing for Arizona.
COLOR PHOTO: UNIVERSITY PHOTO CENTER [See caption above]
Ready for Their Close-ups
Here are five assistants--slightly older than Josh Pastner--who
are on track for Division I head-coaching jobs soon.
Coach, Team, Age
Johnny Dawkins, Duke, 39
Former Blue Devils great and NBA vet will be the next from Coach
K's stable to land a job.
Dave Dickerson, Maryland, 35
Terps' recruiting has improved markedly since he joined Gary
Williams's staff six years ago.
Anthony Grant, Florida, 35
Has been a successful assistant under Billy Donovan for nine
years, including two at Marshall.
Brian Gregory, Michigan State, 36
He'll soon follow former Spartans assistant Stan Heath, now
running Arkansas, to a top job.
Mike Hopkins, Syracuse, 33
Fifth-year assistant and former Orangemen captain still likes to
suit up and practice with his charges.