Illinois Basketball: Josh Pastner Has Nothing On John Groce


Illinois basketball has been on the cusp of snagging multiple big time recruits every season.

The latest hot name on the recruiting wire has been 2016 point guard Charlie Moore.

The recruitment of Moore was diagnosed and picked apart before his first commitment and is happening again with this second go around.

Moore originally committed to the Memphis Tigers to play basketball for head coach Josh Pastner.  But just a few weeks ago, Moore backed out of his commitment because Pastner bolted for Georgia Tech.

Now Moore is going through the recruiting cycle again with SMU, LSU, Miami, California, Illinois, Georgia Tech, Western Kentucky, and UNLV as his top eight teams to choose from.

While Moore is taking an official visit to LSU and SMU and an unofficial visit to Illinois a little later, there are rumors that he is leaning towards Georgia Tech.

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Illinois Fighting Illini

Georgia Tech seems like an obvious top choice because the coach he originally committed too, Pastner, is now the coach of the Yellow Jackets.  He wants to play for that coach and might follow him there.

But, is Pastner really better than John Groce, or is he just a product of the having John Calipari’s recruits mixed in with a relatively easy conference every season?

Well, I have been a skeptic of Groce throughout the last few seasons.  The flaws in his coaching are clear to me, but I will probably get to that in a later post.

Despite the flaws of Groce, I honestly don’t think Pastner is a better coach.  I am still not sure why Georgia Tech nabbed him from Memphis.

Groce’s four-year run started with 23 wins followed by 20 wins, then 19 wins, and finally this last season he had 15 wins.  He has missed three straight NCAA Tournaments.

The Groce tenure at Illinois hit a low this past season but you do have to attribute some of the losses to the injuries that occurred.  If there was a healthy lineup, I think Groce would have had about 19 regular seasons wins last year.

When I look at Pastner’s resume, it doesn’t impress me.

Pastner took over the Tigers for the 2009-10 season after a Calipari run to the Sweet 16 the year before.

In that first season as the head coach, Pastner missed the NCAA Tournament.

The following four seasons he would manage to make it back to the postseason.  But the last two years haven’t been so lucky.

Memphis had 18 wins two years ago and 19 wins this past season.  Both were tournament misses.  Pastner has now missed the NCAA Tournament three out of the last seven years.

Even with the tournaments that Pastner made, a lot of it had to do with a weak conference.

In three of the four NCAA Tournament appearances, he won the Conference USA Tournament which was an automatic NCAA Tournament berth.

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If Pastner didn’t have such an easy conference to play in, he wouldn’t have the tournament berths that we have seen before.

To extend my point, I compared Groce’s four year run to Pastner’s seven-year run with Memphis.

In just four years, Groce played 36 ranked teams and was 10-26 in those contests.  That isn’t a terrible record against ranked opponents, actually.

In the seven years that Pastner had the reins in Memphis, he only played against 31 ranked teams.  His record against those ranked teams was 5-26.

So, in the four years Groce coached he averaged playing nine ranked teams per year.  In Pastner’s seven seasons he only averaged playing just over four ranked teams per season.

When it comes down to the recruitment of Moore, you have to look if it will be beneficial to go play for Pastner.

The statistics prove that Pastner isn’t a better coach and quite frankly, he may actually be worse than Groce.

Pastner is now going to be coaching in the ACC where there is better competition and higher expectations for success.

Georgia Tech is going to be playing a lot more ranked teams than Memphis played.

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If Pastner can only win five games against ranked teams in Conference USA and the AAC, I can’t imagine how much he is going to struggle playing in the ACC against Duke, North Carolina, and Syracuse, just to name a few.

Pastner not only drove a Memphis program into the ground, but he did it while not playing tough competition.  There is no question that I would take Groce over Pastner.