Georgia Tech’s latest loss caused coach a sleepless night, now UVA comes to town

By Jerry Ratcliffe

Georgia Tech coach Josh Pastner (Photo: Georgia Tech Athletics)

Many moons ago, then-Georgia Tech football coach Bobby Ross was so distraught with how things were going, he drove aimlessly through the night on Atlanta’s extensive highway system, admittedly eventually getting lost.

Present-day Georgia Tech basketball coach Josh Pastner can relate to Ross’ antics. In fact, Pastner was so upset with how his team entered its holiday break 10 days ago that he slept in his car in the Tech parking lot after the Yellow Jackets were worn out by visiting Clemson, 79-66, on Dec. 21.

“It was just one game, but it caused me to sleep in the car, in my Honda Pilot,” Pastner said Friday, one day before hosting No. 13 Virginia in a New Year’s Eve matinee game today (noon, ACC Network). “I mean, I was just disgusted with our defense and thankfully the [Georgia Tech police department] let me stay there in the parking lot.”

Pastner has more worries today in attempting to end a nine-game losing streak to Virginia. Georgia Tech is 7-5, and even though the Jackets are one of the nation’s best in avoiding turnovers and in playing 3-point defense, they’ll have their hands full with the 9-2 Cavaliers.

“Tony Bennett’s a future Hall of Famer … that’s signed, sealed and delivered, and we’ve had some opportunities (during the losing streak to UVA),” Pastner said. “I think since our first year we’ve been here, we have gotten better each time we’ve played them. They’re really good and they’re old.”

Pastner was referring to fifth-year UVA players Kihei Clark, Jayden Gardner and Ben Vander Plas, who add lots of experience to the Cavaliers’ lineup.

“They’re not going to beat themselves,” the Tech coach said. “I think we’ve had opportunities like last year, it was a possession game late, and the year before, both games, home and home, we had chances. So we’ve had some close games, but we just haven’t been able to get over the hump.”

Pastner was most disturbed about guarding the ball in the loss to Clemson, Tech’s only home loss this season. The Tigers came into that game as one of the nation’s top 3-point shooting teams, and the Jackets held Clemson to a mere 28 percent on triples in that contest.

Points in the paint and guarding the ball were the two areas that caused Pastner a sleepless night. 

“Not having that shot blocker right behind you, not having that guy to protect you in certain situations, so you can really get spread out and no guy back there,” Pastner said. “But the biggest thing is we’ve got to be guarding the ball better and we’ve got to be better in the paint.

“Straight line drives and the points in the paint,” Pastner kept repeating. “It’s the Clemson game, the Clemson game.”

Clearly, that game stuck in his head and so he has run the Jackets through the grinder in practice the past few days to get his point across in trying to get their attention before they take on Virginia (for more details, see today’s related “Wahoo Preview,” breaking down the game).