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VOL. 128 | NO. 229 | Friday, November 22, 2013

 

Time for Tigers to Back Up Words

DON WADE | Special to The Daily News

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Looking back at a few quotes from the once 11th-ranked Tigers at their preseason media day, in light of the embarrassment that was their recent 101-80 loss to No. 7 Oklahoma State:

University of Memphis head coach Josh Pastner addresses the media a day after the team’s embarrassing loss at Oklahoma State University. Pastner’s Tigers are 0-13 against the AP Top 25.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

Senior guard Geron Johnson: “One (free-throw) attempt a game last year, I mean that’s terrible if I’m supposed to be some tough guy.” He shot one free throw – and missed it – in 24 minutes in Stillwater.

Senior guard Chris Crawford on the four senior guards playing together and for the team: “We’re not worried about the NBA at all.” Early on, senior guard Michael Dixon jacked up two long 3-point shots. For the night, Dixon and Johnson each went 1-for-10 from the floor and a combined 0-for-7 from 3-point range, and Dixon and senior guard Joe Jackson combined for 0 assists in 45 minutes.

Jackson: “Doesn’t matter what critics say, we gotta prove it.” The Tigers (1-1) are now 0-13 vs. Associated Press Top 25 teams under coach Josh Pastner, who is in his fifth season.

Dixon on concerns about the next goal, making the NBA, getting in the way this season: “I don’t think it’s that big a deal. We want to win games.”

Yet they shot themselves out of the game with playground ball. So it’s hard to come away from what happened at Oklahoma State, where Thunder star Kevin Durant and a slew of NBA scouts were on hand to see All-America sophomore guard Marcus Smart hang 39 points on the Tigers, and not conclude that the senior guards were caught looking ahead to the next chapter.

That, and the entire team from Pastner on down seemed pretty much clueless about making any kind of adjustment. Which is why at one stage they trailed by 34 points. And why multiple people, some who cover college basketball for a living and others who are just casual fans, were going on Twitter and questioning the Memphis offense and a lack of set plays.

Pastner did say that perhaps he will have “a little more control” of the offense and give players more “structure.” Not exactly the kind of thing Bobby Knight would have ever said, even as we appreciate the fact Pastner is never at risk for choking a player. Although right this moment, there are Tiger fans who might give Pastner a pass on that.

After the game and again the next day at the Finch Center when meeting with local media, Pastner repeatedly said, “I didn’t see this coming,” and that he never imagined all four senior guards would play so poorly at the same time.

Other quick sound bites from the coach:

“We got our butt kicked.” Yep.

“There’s no need to panic.” Not yet, but the meter’s running.

“We need course correction.” He mentioned “course correction” numerous times.

“Probably on that night, Oklahoma State would have beaten anybody in college basketball in Stillwater.” Maybe.

“Looking back, there were some times I probably could have got (Nick King) some more time.” King, a freshman forward, scored 23 points and had eight rebounds in just 15 minutes of action. So yeah, more time is a fine idea.

“It was not the Super Bowl.” No, but the NCAA Tournament committee has this one in its files.

“I get it.” Pastner on the criticism from fans as high expectations take another early-season hit.

But one wonders if Pastner does get it. Yes, he recruits like a madman. And he is everything a university could ask for as a front man. He seems to genuinely care about his players, something that every coach says but that is not always true.

And yet he seems stuck on coaching and subbing by “feel,” on relying on his players’ “creativity” to make the offense click, in believing that things will get better because, well, he believes things will get better.

One reporter told Pastner he was a “half-full guy,” always taking the optimistic view. “Absolutely,” the coach said with a smile. “Overflowing.”

Word is, Pastner didn’t listen to sports talk radio the day after the loss to Oklahoma State. Or read anything written about the game. Which, if true, probably would be a first and would be a good sign. And for now, he has closed practice to media to focus on “course correction.”

Whatever works, Coach, up to and including throwing a chair.

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