Two and a half months into the job, UCSB men’s basketball coach Joe Pasternack is going full throttle as a promoter of the university and the city.
“I told my wife the other day I don’t think I’ve been in a better place than Santa Barbara,” Pasternack said last week. “I think it’s the most spectacular city in America, maybe the world. It has something for everybody. I’m absolutely in love with it.”
His task is to give the city a winning major college basketball team, which former coaches Jerry Pimm and Bob Williams did most of their years at UCSB, and also a team that is exciting to behold.
The assembly of his coaching staff was Pasternack’s first priority.
“The most important part of taking over a program is who you hire,” the former Arizona assistant coach said. “Sean Miller [Arizona’s head coach] once told me it’s like a bowl of soup. You need different ingredients to make the soup very good, and it’s like that for a staff. We’ve hired totally different people. They have different strengths, which complement each other very well, and they have experiences that will really help support our student athletes.”
John Rillie is the most flavorful ingredient in Pasternack’s recipe, a native Australian who played at Gonzaga and in overseas professional leagues, and for the last seven years was an assistant at Boise State.
Louis Reynaud, the stock in the soup, has simmered for three decades of coaching. He was one of the Bay Area’s top high school coaches at De La Salle High in Concord, and he has been an assistant at three universities, Cal, Rice, and Houston.
Ben Tucker adds some spice. He was assistant at Northern Arizona last year, and before that he worked in basketball operations at Arizona, his alma mater. “He knows our Arizona system backwards, forwards, inside out,” said Pasternack, who intends to import Wildcat-style hoops.
The 40-year-old head coach also intends to pump UCSB’s academic reputation as a selling point. “To be able to look into parents’ eyes and explain that their son is going to get a degree from the number eight public university is a big deal,” Pasternack said. “That gives us definitely an advantage. Our standards are very, very high.”
Two Gaucho starters were ineligible because of poor grades last season. Pasternack does not want to see that happen again. “We’re going to compete on a daily basis,” he said. “The culture that we must bring here is to honor the process. For the players, the process starts in the classroom. This is an incredibly prestigious academic institution and with that comes a lot of responsibility on these young men to attend class daily, to attend study hall daily, to take care of their homework and their tutor appointments on a daily basis. That’s the process. The grades will take care of themselves. We concentrate on what will produce the results, not the results.”
Making the grade both in school and on the basketball court should go together, Pasternack said, pointing to Alan “Big Al” Williams, a four-year Gaucho who graduated in 2015. While playing on a one-year contract with the Phoenix Suns, Williams excelled in the second half of the season.
“He shows that you can come to UCSB and become an NBA player,” Pasternack said. “We’re not asking recruits to be the first. He proved it two years ago, not 20 years ago. He led the country in rebounding two years in a row, and now he’s going to sign a big, big contract in July. He’s a wonderful young man, the epitome of what we want, the total student-athlete.”
Pasternack’s first recruit for the 2017-18 season is already a proven student-athlete. Marcus Jackson averaged double figures as a shooting guard at Rice. He earned his degree last month and will be ready to spend his last season of athletic eligibility in UCSB’s graduate program.
There are numerous reports that another recent graduate, 6′7″ Nevada forward Leland King, has also decided to transfer and finish his career at UCSB.
It only appears that a college degree is required to enter the Gaucho basketball program. Another transfer from Nevada is point guard Devearl Ramsey, who will sit out the coming season as a redshirt and have three more years of eligibility remaining. Meanwhile, Pasternack and his staff will be busy looking for future Gauchos at high school tournaments this summer. They will get the process rolling for the 2017-18 team when all the players report for the final summer school session in August.
Shooting and scoring were areas where the Gauchos struggled on the court last season, and Rillie is expected to make an impact on the offensive side of the ball. “John’s got some really good international concepts offensively,” Pasternack said of the former Boise State assistant, who was a backcourt sharpshooter himself.
The Golden State Warriors’ fast-paced share-the-ball approach has an influence on basketball programs everywhere, Pasternack added. “Kids today, all they do is watch the NBA,” he said. “Golden State is a great example of having these superstars: Look, if they make the extra pass, how can you not make the extra pass? That’s something we as coaches definitely hammer into our players.”
Rillie said he was attracted to UCSB by Pasternack’s vision for the program, besides being able to enjoy “the Australian lifestyle — beach and sun” by leaving Idaho.
Boise State, a program comparable to UCSB in the mid-major category, received two at-large bids to the NCAA tournament in the past five years. Last year, the Broncos averaged 75 points a game, making 45 percent of their shots, including 35 percent from three-point range. UCSB’s statistics were 61 points per game, 38 percent from the floor and 29 percent from long distance.
“Time in the gym, working on the craft” are two important aspects in developing a good shooter, Rillie said. “But the most important is a positive mind-set.”
He said Jackson will bring that mind-set to UCSB. In his sophomore year at Rice, the new Gaucho guard hit three-pointers in 25 consecutive games and led Conference USA with 85 threes. “He’ll take the pressure off Gabe Vincent,” Pasternack said. Vincent, UCSB’s top returning starter, got off to a slow start last year and then had a season-ending knee injury. Another returner with a shooter’s mentality is Max Heidegger.
“We’ll work at it, and in November and December see how it pays off,” Rillie said.
Foresters Player of the Week
After being named the Freshman of the Year in the Big 12 Conference, the infielder from Texas Tech hit for the cycle in his first week as a Forester — four singles, a double, a triple, and a home run — for a .412 batting average. He had eight RBIs and drove in the first run Sunday when the Foresters completed a perfect weekend at Pershing Park with Manager Bill Pintard’s 900th career victory, 3-1 over the Academy Barons.