Who will become the next men’s basketball coach at Cal? According to the Arizona Daily Star, Joe Pasternack could be a candidate for the position. Pasternack graduated from Indiana in 1999 and served as an assistant coach at Cal under Ben Braun from 2000 to 2007. He was dismissed along with Braun and became the head coach at New Orleans.
Pasternack is a New Orleans native, which was a motivating factor for his taking the job in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. He told The New York Times: “I felt like I wanted to be back home, regardless of Katrina. But the storm made it even more of a calling.” His record there was 54-60. Eventually, the university made the decision to leave Division I as a result of the storm’s economic impact.
That ultimately led to Pasternack departing the program in 2011 to become an assistant at Arizona. As he put it, "Joining one of the elite basketball programs in the country and working for one of the top coaches in college basketball -- Sean Miller -- was not an opportunity that I could pass up.” Pasternack now holds the title of associate head coach for the Wildcats. During his tenure, Arizona has enjoyed three Sweet 16 and a trip to the Elite 8.
Cal fans might remember an incident that occurred during a game against Arizona on February 2, 2012. Cal player Jorge Gutierrez went into the Arizona bench in an attempt to retrieve a loose ball and felt that Pasternack kicked him in the process.
Pasternack’s response: "I would like to clarify that my actions last night were a reflex in response to a player falling on top of me while running at top speed toward our bench.” No fouls or suspensions were issued in the aftermath. But Pasternack showed little contrition during the incident.
Hiring Pasternack appeared to be a possibility prior to Cuonzo Martin’s arrival on campus. He had support from several donors including Douglas Goldman. Pasternack is the brother-in-law of Roxy Bernstein, a major on-air presence when it comes to Cal hoops. He has strong West Coast connections and should be able to bring some good talent to Haas Pavilion. Interestingly, Pasternack was the recruiting coordinator during the time that Leon Powe and Theo Robertson committed to Cal. Now, Robertson appears to be a candidate for the head coach position in his own right.
Pasternack is probably well known for his recruiting ability, and what would make him particularly attractive is his connection with the local Oakland Soldiers. Arizona has managed to scoop out tons of Bay Area talent under Cal’s noses, including most prominently Aaron Gordon and Brandon Ashley (but also non-regional AAU prospects Nick Johnson and Stanely Johnson). Cuonzo Martin did manage to score a local win by getting Ivan Rabb two years ago, but Pasternack came right back and landed Ira Lee out of Prolific Prep.
However, there is a big question as to whether Pasternack is the main guy making recruiting work for Arizona, a program that has tended to recruit itself over the years. Sean Miller is considered one of the top recruiters in the nation as well. Pasternack helps, but Miller closes.
Pasternack may have several suitors. UNLV is rumored to have interest, and he has previously been connected to the New Mexico State program. Time will tell whether Pasternack ends up back in Berkeley.