The Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets moving on up to the east side like George Jefferson in the hit Sit-Com the Jefferson’s. The stage doesn’t get much bigger than the bright lights of Madison Square Garden. That’s exactly where the underdogs will be tomorrow night. Josh Pastner ACC Men’s Basketball Coach of the year will have the Yellow Jackets ready to sting CSU Bakersfield in their first National Invitation Tournament semifinal game in 46 years. After defying all the odds “if you win one game in the ACC call it a success”. The Jackets are riding a tidal wave of momentum defeating Ole Miss 74-66 Tuesday night in Oxford, Miss.
That win was significant because the Jackets haven’t been as successful on the road; they lead wire to wire to get their third road game of the season (3-11). Meanwhile, CSU is the first No. 8 seed to reach the final four (NIT). They got here by winning all three games on the road. Two teams on emotional highs are set to clash for the right to play in the championship. First-year coach Josh Pastner is reminding the Ramblin Wreck of Georgia Tech faithful of the past glory days, three ACC Championships 1985, 1990, 1993, while setting the bar for the new wave Jackets. The national exposure is sure to benefit the program for years to come with recruiting top tier talent to the A.T.L.
“Back in the summer, when I asked our staff, ‘How do we get to 20 wins?’ They said, ‘Coach, just get your mind ready for like seven to 10 at the most. You’ve just got to stop saying 20,’” Pastner recalled and smiled. “We found a way to get to 20, which is, once again, a modern miracle.”
Or great coaching I will add. I recall my first encounter with Pastner during a piggyback press conference following Head Football Coach Paul Johnson’s weekly chat with the media. He was so positive and energetic excited about the basketball season starting. I asked the question “Can you tell me the vision you have 3 years from now” he took the floor talked about the challenges of following a legend in John Calipari to being given the keys to the Jackets, a team on the low. He eloquently explained how he felt one has prepared him for the other. I recall telling my media buddy Jonathan Simmons of Real Talk Sports “that guy is special, Tech has a winner on their hands, and he has IT whatever that is. Of course, I didn’t see all of this especially after they had to go into overtime to squeak out a victory against Shorter in the preseason. Fortunately, I have enjoyed a front row seat to observe a coach lay the foundation brick by brick or scream by scream to get his players motivated and committed to his coaching and methodology.
A blessing in disguise, though the big dance is in the NCAA Tourney, was making it to the NIT. Perhaps in the NCCA they would have been one and done. In the NIT they have a realistic chance of bringing home the Prize. A major victory in the most famous Arena on the BIG STAGE live at Madison Square Garden. Freshman Josh Okogie is looking forward to taking his 21.7 points per NIT game to NY to play in the same arena that hosted the greatest entertainer in the world Michael Jackson.