Memphis promotes Pastner to head coach

31-year-old is head coach after one year

April 7, 2009 

Memphis has hired Josh Pastner, an assistant under John Calipari, as the Tigers' new basketball coach, a school spokesman said Monday.

The university scheduled a news conference for noon Central Tuesday to introduce the 31-year-old, said athletics spokesman Bob Winn.

Calipari left Memphis for Kentucky last week after nine seasons with the Tigers.

Pastner is regarded to be a strong recruiter and helped Memphis land commitments from top-five recruits DeMarcus Cousins and Xavier Henry, both of whom reopened their recruitment after Calipari's hiring at UK. Pastner worked one year under Calipari after six years as an assistant at Arizona, where he also played.

During Pastner's time under former Arizona coach Lute Olson, the Wildcats averaged 23 wins per season, captured two Pacific 10 regular-season titles, advanced to two NCAA Tournament regional finals and made six-straight NCAA Tournament appearances.

In his only season at Memphis, the Tigers finished 33-4 with a Conference USA title and an NCAA regional semifinal appearance.

While in high school and college, Pastner coached AAU squads, following in the footsteps of his father, Hal Pastner, an acclaimed AAU coach in Houston, Texas.

Memphis Athletics Director R.C. Johnson said last week that he planned to hire a new coach who would "wow" 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 struggled mightily to hang on to Calipari but sought to put the best twist on his departure — saying the successful program he built was attractive enough to land one of the country's top coaches. Officials also boasted that university supporters would come up with plenty of money to pay a new coach.

Calipari was paid $2.3 million a year at Memphis and now has an eight-year contract at Kentucky worth nearly $32 million.

There was no immediate word on Pastner's salary.

Vilarino out of Derby Festival

Former Kentucky signee G.J. Vilarino has dropped out of the upcoming Derby Festival Classic, organizer Dan Owens said Monday night.

Vilarino, a 6-foot point guard from McKinney, Texas, was the first player to commit to UK when Billy Gillispie became coach. He reluctantly severed his ties with UK after speaking to new coach John Calipari last week.

The Derby Festival Game, which is Saturday, will feature future UK player Jon Hood.

One of the Memphis signees in limbo, Nolan Dennis, is also scheduled to play in the game. He committed to play in the game long before Calipari left Memphis to become UK coach, Owens said.

Heralded prospect DeMarcus Cousins, who had committed to Memphis, is expected to announce his college choice later this week, Owens said. If the choice is Kentucky, Owens hopes to persuade Cousins to play in the Derby Festival game.

Arizona hires Miller

Coach Sean Miller is leaving Xavier and heading to Arizona. Miller met with his players before making the announcement Monday and said at a news conference that this was one of his toughest decisions.

"I did my best to follow my heart," he said.

Miller said he would not have left except for the tradition and chance to win a national championship at Arizona.

Miller led the Musketeers to the Elite Eight last year and received a contract extension through the 2017-18 season. Xavier reached the round of 16 again this season. Miller had a 120-47 record in five seasons at Xavier, guiding the team to the NCAA Tournament four times.

The 40-year-old wasn't Arizona's first choice to succeed Hall of Famer Lute Olson. Tim Floyd rejected an offer and stayed at Southern California.

Hamilton sticks with FSU

Leonard Hamilton is staying at Florida State after agreeing to a new five-year deal. Hamilton, 60, had visited with Memphis officials about the opening there created by John Calipari's departure to Kentucky last week. Terms of the new deal were still being finalized Monday. Hamilton, who was an assistant at UK under Joe B. Hall, is 131-96 in seven seasons at Florida State after taking the school to its first NCAA Tournament in 11 years.

Wooden finalists named

Tyler Hansbrough has a chance to repeat as the John R. Wooden Award winner. The North Carolina senior, DeJuan Blair and Blake Griffin were named finalists Monday for the award given to men's college basketball's top player. Maya Moore of Connecticut and Courtney Paris of Oklahoma were selected as finalists for the women's award. The winners will be announced Friday at the Los Angeles Athletic Club.

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