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Memphis Tigers head coach Josh Pastner used Arizona as an example of how little some fan bases care about their sports. And he's not wrong for doing so.
Josh Pastner is a master of recruiting. While his NCAA tournament success hasn't yet come to fruition, it's quite obvious his program was left with little when he took over for John Calipari. On Wednesday, Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy wrote about Pastner's recruiting at Memphis and one excerpt stuck out -- it's one that might be taken as a shot at Arizona fans.
"You know what's different?" Pastner said of Memphis. "You lose at Arizona, everybody's going out to dinner, there are parties going on, the college kids are still going to the bars. Memphis you take an ‘L,' people are devastated. They're sick to their stomach. They take it like a coach. That's the big difference. There are very few programs that are similar to here, the investment that they have to the team."
Some Arizona fans took it as a dig to the Wildcats' program that was the birth-place of Pastner's coaching career. That irked me, because it's important to take to take the comment for what it is.
If you're not keeping up, that would be truth.
And in philosophy, supporting that truth stands with Josh Pastner the person -- who I have multiple secondhand knowledge of being one high-level coach to call an unknown student reporter back as soon as he can --not Josh Pastner the former Wildcat. I think that's an important distinction to make.
First, let's talk about the fan base.
Can you discount the fact that many Arizona fans are more concerned about the postgame party than sitting in the ZonaZoo? Is it wrong for people like us to acknowledge that, yes, the fan base will leave the student section barren against South Carolina State while the older Arizona fans will remain in their seats, at least past halftime?
For every fan base, there's the people who care. There's those who stay til the finial buzzer or whistle no matter if it's a close game or a blowout in either direction. At Arizona, there are quit a few bandwagon fans. It's something prevalent in the state as a whole, from college teams to professional teams. About the only constant has been Triple-A baseball games in Tucson, where $1 beer days are sure-fire sells.
So what's so bad about Josh being truthful?
Indeed, I believe Memphis fans are more rabid, so there's no reason he shouldn't use that as a selling point. His ways have worked so far. For a Conference USA squad in a small-ish city, take that sell over anything dirtying the NCAA rulebook.
And let's be real. Pastner isn't discounting Sean Miller's program or Tucson or the school. He's criticizing a culture where partying is just as, if not more than, important as winning basketball or football games.
I went to the UofA. I saw it.
And I'm not here to tell anyone what's right or what's wrong, because it's not my decision. There's an unhealthy culture of drinking as there is an unhealthy culture of taking wins and losses too seriously. For the latter, just look to Penn State's refusal to believe the God-like Joe Paterno did anything wrong early in the debacle, or remember Kentucky's couch-burning practices after this past season's national championship victory.
And look at the University of Arizona not long ago. As early ago as 2001, it appeared that both the drinking and the caring too much was on the side of extreme. Following the loss to Duke in the national championship game, Tucson was rioting, and it could've been blamed on both of the above. Less than a year out of college, I can't say I wouldn't have been excessive from either standpoint with a little peer pressure. To sound cliche, it is the way it is.
Now, it's custom to head out of the Zoo at halftime to get to the bars on time.
Do as you will. Times have probably changed. My word or opinion won't change it, and I can't even argue that excessive winning will act as a cure.
But there's nothing wrong with telling the truth, especially if, like myself, Josh Pastner has lived the Arizona lifestyle. There's nothing wrong with trying to sell young men on something he believes in, something that despite his loyalties, appears more pure at Memphis than what he experienced when he was their age at Arizona.
After all, wouldn't Arizona fans -- anyone really -- want to recruit athletes who come for the athletics and not for the party scene? That has a history of turning out badly for some who can't handle it.
And if you really think Josh Pastner is doing his old school a disservice by breaking loyalties, then how about you? If that's your criticism, aren't you doing the same by not supporting a Wildcat graduate's success at Memphis?
We learned this from the Penn State scandal -- build loyalties toward people, not the institutions they serve. I believe that even though the latter is what brings sports teams, and people who care about them, together.
If anything, Pastner is challenging his former school. If the fans accept the truth and work to change it, the better off they'll be.