It's official. They're all gone.
Josh Pastner was formally named a new assistant basketball coach at Memphis on Monday, a move that could significantly accelerate his career after 12 years as a player and coach with the Arizona Wildcats.
Pastner's departure clears out last season's assistant coaching staff for UA head coach Lute Olson, with Kevin O'Neill having been moved to a fundraising role and Miles Simon not having had his contract renewed.
Instead of remaining as the No. 2 or No. 3 assistant coach at Arizona, after Olson already lined up veterans Russ Pennell and Mike Dunlap, Pastner is expected to be the top recruiter and a key bench coach for a Memphis program that has reached three straight Elite Eights and spun off several assistants to head other programs. He is also likely to make more than the $123,900 Arizona paid him last season.
"His (recruiting) ties and his ability and his work ethic are what I'm looking for," Memphis coach John Calipari said. Pastner "could be the next head coach. He's the next guy. We've had four guys in the last five years move on to pretty good jobs, and I'm fine with that."
The Tigers lost two assistants after reaching the Final Four last season — Derek Kellogg (Massachusetts) and Chuck Martin (Marist) — while they also have lost Steve Roccaforte to Lamar and Tony Barbee to UTEP in recent seasons. They have one returning assistant, veteran John Robic, who is not a regular recruiter.
While Calipari gets an energetic 30-year-old aide who is well-connected nationally, especially in the richly talented Texas-Louisiana region, Pastner will get the experience of working with another of the nation's top college coaches.
Pastner, who joined Olson's program in 1996 as a walk-on guard out of Houston, will now work with Calipari and his unique dribble-drive motion offense.
"I love it here (in Tucson) but this is an opportunity to stretch my wings," Pastner said. "It just puts you at an other level nationally to be working with another elite coach. I'm very fortunate to be at those spots, and keep learning basketball-wise."
Pastner said he received approval from both Olson and UA athletic director Jim Livengood to pursue the opportunity, and said his departure has nothing to do with the significant changes in Olson's program since the end of last season. Pennell officially started work Monday and Dunlap is expected to be officially named soon, while former UA player Reggie Geary and Nike traveling-team manager Wyking Jones are candidates for the opening created by Pastner.
"Arizona has great guys coming in, and to work with them would be awesome," Pastner said. "Nothing was done without talking to Coach Olson and Mr. Livengood. … Those two have given me unbelievable support."
Livengood said he advised Pastner to make the best decision for himself.
"I like him as a coach but even more as a person," Livengood said. "I'll miss the heck out of him and I think he'll do a wonderful job for Memphis."
Under Olson, Pastner advanced to the lead recruiter and big-man coach. He spent four years as a walk-on player, one year as an undergraduate assistant coach, one year as an administrative aide and six years as a full-time assistant once Jay John left to become Oregon State's head coach in 2002.
Calipari said Pastner would also probably work with post players at Memphis, but said he does not like to pigeonhole his assistants. Besides, he said, Pastner will develop close relationships with all the Tigers' players.
"We kind of move it around a little bit," Calipari said. "As a head coach, you've got to be prepared to do everything. The guys that I hire, one, I want them to bond together because I'm trying to put a team together. I want them to be strong in areas that I'm weak."
Calipari said he needed Pastner to not only direct the recruiting, staying on top of phone calls and relationships, but also to serve as a liaison between Calipari and the players.
"As a head coach, as much as my guys will fight like heck for me, I'm still a little bit away from them," Calipari said. "I need someone to watch tape with them, check on them now and then, have a pep talk. I tell them, 'Instead of just spending time with players we may not get, I want you to spend time with the players we have.' It's not easy."
Pastner, whose hiring was announced Monday by Memphis and is subject to approval of the school and Tennessee's Board of Regents, is scheduled to begin working for the Tigers late this week.
While Pastner said his departure comes with heavy mixed emotions after so many years in Tucson, he said he will always have an eye on McKale Center. Besides, Pastner said, if he is able to keep moving up in the profession, there could even be a return to UA in the future.
"Who knows?" Pastner said. "I hope to be able to come back because I love this place. My heart will always be here."