Ten years ago, Joe Pasternack became a head basketball coach in NCAA Division 1 under dire circumstances. An assistant coach with the Cal Bears, he took the helm at the University of New Orleans (UNO) when the Privateers were still adrift from the impact of Hurricane Katrina. They had achieved some stability when he left after four years to join Sean Miller’s staff at the University of Arizona.
Miller promoted Pasternack to associate head coach during a six-year period in which the Wildcats reached a pair of Sweet 16s and a pair of Elite Eights in the NCAA tournament. Those were pretty good cards for him to show when he came to Santa Barbara looking to take charge of another program that is reeling a bit.
It was a bold stroke for UCSB to make Pasternack just the third head coach of the Gaucho men’s team in the past 34 years. His predecessors, Jerry Pimm and Bob Williams, were both 45 when they came to Santa Barbara, and they settled into long and generally successful careers. Pimm’s teams filled the Thunderdome for epic games against UNLV and achieved UCSB’s only victory in the NCAA tournament. Williams had a 19-year run that included three NCAA appearances and the most wins (313) of any UCSB men’s coach. The Gauchos averaged 17 victories a season before fading to 6-22 in 2016-17.
There’s a burst of energy that comes with the hiring of Pasternack. He turns 40 on April 15 and is eager to make his mark.
UCSB athletics director John McCutcheon listed the new coach’s attributes: “He was in the UC system at Cal; he has head coaching experience; he has recruiting ties in the West Coast; he was involved in game planning and on-floor coaching at Arizona.”
For his part, Pasternack said in a statement that was released prior to his introductory press conference: “I am really excited for the opportunity to build a comprehensive program at UCSB. I expect us to be competing for Big West championships each year and developing student-athletes on and off the court.”
Pasternack is a New Orleans native — a factor in his taking the UNO job after Katrina — and he attended the Indiana University, where he was a student manager on Bob Knight’s basketball staff. He headed west to Cal after graduating.
Because of his youth, there’s always the possibility that UCSB will become a short-term steppingstone for Pasternak to move up to a major program. “If that happens, he’ll have done something special for us,” McCutcheon said. A five-year deal is in the works, the AD said.
MARCH MADNESS: I never had any success in filling out an NCAA bracket, finishing near the bottom of every pool I entered in the past decade. My wife was always in contention for the top spot. This year I hopefully named my entry “Cubs Won So Can I.” Lo and behold, my Final Four included North Carolina, Gonzaga, and Oregon, finishing in that order, and I wound up No. 1 … In the final game, the Tar Heels and Zags combined to make 46 of 132 shots — 34.8 percent — worse than the 37.7 percent that was the bane of UCSB (346th out of 347 D-1 teams). … By far the biggest upset was the UConn women’s first defeat in 112 games, at the hands of a Mississippi State team the Huskies had defeated by 60 points a year ago.
AIMING HIGH: Where does an Olympic high jump champion find another challenge? Canada’s Derek Drouin will make his debut in the decathlon this weekend at the Sam Adams Combined Events Invitational meet at Westmont College. Drouin jumped over the bar at 2.38 meters (7′9¾″) to win the gold medal at Rio last summer. His best is 2.40 (7′10½″). The high jump is the fourth of 10 decathlon events and should take place between 4 and 6 p.m. Friday, April 7. The meet also includes a women’s heptathlon and will continue Saturday starting at 10:30 a.m.
JOHN ZANT’S GAME OF THE WEEK
4/7: College Men’s Volleyball: BYU at UCSB Nostalgia will be the theme Friday evening when longtime public-address announcer Marc “Cubby” Jacobs calls his last match and, between the second and third games, former coach Ken Preston is honored as a “Legend of the Dome.” Preston coached the Gauchos for 30 years (1979-2008) and took them to the NCAA championship match in 1988. On the court, the curtain will be coming down on UCSB’s 2017 season, barring a miracle. When they lost to USC last week, the Gauchos fell out of the top eight teams that will advance to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation playoffs. They would have to defeat third-ranked BYU twice (another match will be played Thu., Apr. 6, at 7pm at Rob Gym) to have a shot at the postseason. 5pm. The Thunderdome, UCSB. $5-$8. Call 893-UCSB (8272) or visit ucsbgauchos.com.
S.B. ATHLETIC ROUND TABLE ATHLETES OF THE WEEK
Andrea Mueller, SBCC track and field
The freshman broke a 26-year-old school record by scoring 4,382 points in the heptathlon at the Jim Klein Combined Events meet at Westmont.
Henry Hancock, Santa Barbara High volleyball
In a showdown for first place in the Channel League, the senior piled up 25 kills, leading the Dons to a four-set victory over Dos Pueblos.
March 26-April 1
Brie Walker, Cate School lacrosse
The Rams remained undefeated thanks to the five goals and five assists posted by Walker, a junior, in a 13-12 victory over Thousand Oaks.
Diego Jasso, San Marcos baseball
The junior’s big hits (a three-run homer, two-run homer, and three-run double) led the Royals to three wins in a tournament at Tucson, Arizona.