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VOL. 130 | NO. 6 | Friday, January 9, 2015
Don Wade

Don Wade

Pastner Rumors Part of 2014-15 Season Narrative

By Don Wade

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Wading in with some quick takes on everything from Josh Pastner to Jameis Winston to Baseball Hall of Fame voting …

An acquaintance approached me this week to say that, while he couldn’t vouch for the validity of the story, someone close to him had heard from someone else close to the University of Memphis administration that a “big booster” had delivered the message that “something needs to be done about Josh Pastner.”

What do we make of that?

First, even the acquaintance conceded this information might be inaccurate. But the story does play to the growing narrative of this Tiger basketball season: frustration.

There is no belief among the fan base that this edition of the Tigers will improve enough to make a run at an NCAA Tournament at-large bid. And one of the reasons people think that is because, generally speaking, they have little faith in the coach’s ability to make a team better.

Thus, fans pretty much assume the same flaws that exist now – high rate of turnovers, the lack of a dynamic playmaker in the backcourt, inconsistent focus and, yes, questionable substitution patterns – will still be evident in March. Not to mention all those empty seats at home games.

All of this ultimately lands on Pastner’s doorstep. The U of M extended Pastner’s contract in May of 2013, bringing him up to $2.65 million per season and making him one of college basketball’s highest-paid coaches. The contract runs through 2017-18, but could extend through 2019-20.

So, no, it would not be easy to do something about the Memphis basketball coach. And such speculation is premature at this point. But depending on how the rest of this season goes, we all may be hearing more unconfirmed stories about this “big booster” and that “big booster.”

As for Jameis Winston, I would be one of those NFL general managers who would pass on the Florida State and 2013 Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback. My bottom line reason is that the most important quality in an NFL QB besides having the necessary physical attributes is good judgment under pressure.

By that metric, Winston fails for his number of interceptions on the field this past season and for his history of fumbling, if you will, off it.

Meantime, some private investigators will be getting paid very well to do background checks on Winston as teams try to convince themselves Winston is worth the risk.

The Baseball Hall of Fame voting results are in and pitchers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz were all elected. As was Craig Biggio, who finished his career with more than 3,000 hits.

For several years, I had a Hall of Fame vote and I took it seriously. So seriously that even though the rules allow for voting for as many as 10 players, I used just one of my available votes that first time on outfielder Andre Dawson. He wasn’t elected then, but later was, and the reason I only used one vote had nothing to do with steroids but the belief that being very good was not enough for election.

Perhaps my standards were too harsh, but soon enough the voting process became all about which players we knew or strongly suspected used performance-enhancing drugs. It killed the joy of being a Hall of Fame voter.

I’d have voted for Johnson and Smoltz, perhaps Martinez, too. I would have liked to have voted for Biggio and his long-time Houston teammate Jeff Bagwell because I loved their grit and they were class acts in the clubhouse.

But if I’m honest, the only hitter I would have felt confident voting for (confident that he was clean) would have been shortstop Alan Trammell. I understand there is fatigue with the steroids issue and some people want to move on and open the doors for Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and others.

Personally, I’d rather give a ceremonial vote to Ryan Dempster for drilling Alex Rodriguez.

Don Wade’s column appears weekly in The Daily News and The Memphis News. Listen to Wade on “Middays with Greg & Eli” every Tuesday at noon on Sports 56 AM and 87.7 FM.

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