Pasternack returns to lead UNO basketball program
Posted: Tuesday August 21, 2007 12:03PM; Updated: Tuesday August 21, 2007 12:03PM
The call came shortly after the announcement that Joe Pasternack was hired as the new men's basketball coach at the University of New Orleans. On the other end of the line was Bob Knight, for whom Pasternack worked as a student manager during his undergrad years at Indiana. Knight's message was simple. "Joe, this is about work, and you've never been afraid of work.
You just got to work."
Work indeed. Pasternack 30, is the third men's coach at UNO in three years. In July '06, he was passed up for the job when the university hired Texas A&M assistant Buzz Williams. Then just over a month ago, Williams, who was 14-17 last season, took left for an assistant coaching position at Marquette. Although he didn't say why he left, speculation was that he grew frustrated with the slow pace of renovations on campus.
Pasternack, on the other hand, is optimistic about the progress. Maybe it's because he was raised in New Orleans. Maybe it's because the school's basketball stadium, Lakefront Arena, is scheduled to reopen this May. Or maybe it's because Bo McCaleb, the reigning Sunbelt Conference Player of the Year, is willing to stay at UNO despite heavy recruiting efforts from more successful programs.
"I want to be here for the long haul," says Pasternack. "I'm dedicating this year to the seniors, who have been through three coaches, who have been through all this. I'm here to lead them and to help them accomplish what they want to accomplish."
For McCaleb, that goal is simple: make the NCAA tournament.
A tournament bid would be sweet redemption for McCaleb, who could have taken a ticket out of New Orleans at any point in the past two years, and whose mother encouraged him to do so fearing that UNO wouldn't reopen. He was offered everything from scholarships (acceptable) to apartments (not so much) from competing coaches. But leaving his hometown wasn't an option the 6-foot guard was willing to consider. He had committed to UNO and to New Orleans. Now a senior and team leader, he remains, above all else, committed.
"All of this is making me a little tougher, a little stronger," he says.
Pasternack, who left an assistant coaching job at Cal to come back to New Orleans, feels the same way. He's been on the road for the past month recruiting and is just now has started house hunting in the area. His parents, who evacuated during Katrina, still haven't been able to return to the home he grew up in because of the level of destruction.
Pasternack is eager to move the program ahead. On Aug. 9, he hired three assistant coaches, two of whom are New Orleans natives. And he's applying his near-sightedness to the recruitment of players as well.
"I think it's an advantage right now to be able to have local kids and to be able to say to them, 'You have an opportunity to represent your city," he says. "By going out and playing all these teams in America, you are representing in a small way a rebuilding effort.'"