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January 14, 2013

Basketball never stops for Pasternack

Roxy Bernstein gets to know a number of college coaches while working for ESPN as a play-by-play announcer. But no relationship will come close to the one he shares with Arizona assistant Joe Pasternack.

The two happen to be connected as brother-in-laws via Pasternack's marriage to Bernstein's sister, Lindsay.

So when longtime Santa Ana (Calif.) Mater Dei head coach Gary McKnight and Compton Magic founder Etop Udo-Ema described Pasternack's work ethic on the recruiting trail as "relentless," Bernstein couldn't help but laugh and agree.

"I think it's all entwined with him because he is relentless," Bernstein told GOAZCATS.com before his trip to Tucson to call the Jan. 3 Arizona-Colorado contest. "He wants to win and he knows he's got to outwork people to have success. That's what he's prepared to do. Nobody is going to outwork him. Nobody wants to win more than Joe and he will do what he has to do to win."

Pasternack got his start in the coaching ranks at Indiana, where he served as a student manager under Hall of Fame head coach Bob Knight before graduating in 1999.

Two years later, Pasternack relocated to Berkeley, Calif., to assist head coach Ben Braun as a video coordinator at California. That's when Bernstein - who also calls games for Cal and resides in the Bay Area - first met Pasternack.

Among his first impressions, Bernstein noted a knowledge for the game and the intensity that Pasternack brings - even away from the court. Over time, Bernstein learned that Pasternack takes very little time off and often brings his work home.

"He doesn't have hobbies, really," Bernstein said. "He has his work, he has his family, and that's what his focus is.

"He pretty much thinks basketball nonstop, to be honest with you. He'll have some downtime with his kids, with Lindsay, but basketball is never far from his mind - even when he's doing things away from the game."

And that's not just some family-friendly compliment.

Spot Pasternack around the Arizona basketball facilities, and he will almost surely be on his cell phone. McKnight, who coaches 2014 five-star forward Stanley Johnson, knows exactly how much the 35-year-old likes to talk.

"He calls all the time," McKnight said at last month's Jerry Tarkanian Classic in Las Vegas. "When I talk to him he's really good with me. He's made a relationship with me over the years without Stanley. It's worked out pretty well.

"He's done a good job."

And it is Johnson who is the focus of the conversations. As a young assistant, it is Pasternack's ability to "relate in so many different ways," Johnson said.

"He's a straight shooter just like coach (Sean Miller) is," Johnson added. "All the other coaches are there, too, don't get me wrong, but coach Pasternack is the one I talk to the most."

It was at Cal where Pasternack started to earn his reputation. The Golden Bears pulled in the No. 6 recruiting class in 2003, according to Rivals.com, highlighted by five-star forward Leon Powe. In future classes, Pasternack was the lead recruiter for four-star, in-state talents Ryan Anderson (2006) and D.J. Seeley (2008), as well as three-star forward Harper Kamp (2007).

Powe and Anderson eventually developed into NBA players while Kamp turned into a second-team all-conference performer at Cal. Seeley eventually transferred and currently plays at Cal State Fullerton, where he earned first-team All-Big West Conference honors as a junior last season.

Seeley played his AAU ball for Udo-Ema's Compton Magic travel team.

"That was where we kind of built our relationship," Udo-Ema said of Pasternack.

By 2007, the New Orleans native returned home to accept the head coaching job at the University of New Orleans. It was in the Crescent City, more specifically Metairie, La., where Pasternack played four years on the high school varsity team at private school Metairie Park Country Day. But he knew quickly that his aspirations of a future on the hardwood would instead be reached through studying the game.

It may not have come in handy more than during his four-year tenure at New Orleans. Pasternack quickly turned in a different kind of standout recruiting performance without high-major talents - or scholarships to offer by the end of his run.

His initial team won 19 games - the program's most since 1997 - including the first win over a ranked opponent (No. 21 N.C. State) since 1993. Pasternack would then lose six seniors but replenished the roster with 11 newcomers for the 2008-09 season, ranking among the Sun Belt Conference's best classes. By his final season, Pasternack was dealt a different challenge by the program itself.

An area devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, UNO decided to leave the conference in 2009 and contemplated a move to Division III before ultimately dropping to Division II. The timing of the announcement could not have been any worse for a basketball coach, as it came on the eve of National Signing Day.

The majority of Pasternack's roster eventually transferred out, but the Privateers managed to finish with a 16-6 record in 2011 - the best among all Division I independents - with just one scholarship player.

Sean Miller took notice, and with his brother, Archie, leaving the Arizona staff to take over at Dayton, had a spot to fill on his staff. It was then Miller contacted Udo-Ema for his impression of adding Pasternack, a well-connected West Coast recruiter, to a staff primarily dominated by East Coast ties.

"I gave them the thumbs up," Udo-Ema said, and Pasternack was hired shortly after the season in early May.

In addition to Johnson, among the players Pasternack has watched closely is five-star, 2015 forward Ivan Rabb of Oakland (Calif.) Bishop O'Dowd.

Now in his second season, and with a 15-1 program ranked among the nation's top 10 teams, it is not in Pasternack's nature to get complacent after Arizona missed the NCAA tournament last season. His focus continues to be fixated on ensuring that there is no dropoff in the near future.

"He does whatever he needs to do to succeed - that's Joe," Bernstein said.

Devin Ugland and Evyn Murray contributed to this story.

Tracy McDannaldTracy McDannald
GOAZCATS.com Senior Editor

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