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|Pasternack ready to battle with 'his' team|
Joe Pasternack III had no trouble adjusting to the city where he would be making his head coaching debut. After all, it's where he grew up after his family moved from Ferriday to New Orleans.
The program was another story.
"It was a mess," said Pasternack, who left a solid California program where he was an assistant coach to Ben Braun to take over a struggling University of New Orleans program. "We had coaches and players coming and going and we were trying to find an arena to play in. This is the best group I've ever had this year. I feel really good about our depth and we have the best staff we've ever had. I told them there would be no immediate gratification, that it would take time to build a team. We're scratching the surface now. I just wanted them to allow me to get on a level playing field."
Pasternack has his team on the floor. And he continues building a solid program.
"This is my third year and I'm getting my people in here who know what we have to do to be competitive," he said.
Pasternack led UNO to a 19-13 record his first year, the most wins the program has had since 1997. UNO also tied a school record with nine road victories, including a huge upset at North Carolina State.
UNO's season ended with an 81-77 loss to regular season champion South Alabama in the Sun Belt Conference quarterfinals.
Pasternack, who has been a part of eight NCAA Tournament teams, became the 11th head coach in UNO history last year.
UNO recently beat out Tulane and Sun Belt Conference foe North Texas for Istrouma swingman Ronald McGhee, who gave a verbal commitment to UNO this month.
McGhee rates as Louisiana's No. 5 overall high school recruit and No. 64 nationally at shooting guard by ESPN.com.
The Class 4A all-state honorable mention player as a junior was the highest-rated senior to have not committed, according to the Web site.
Pasternack can not talk about recruits or commitments. He is expected to be in Vidalia in the next couple of weeks in his continued recruitment of Vidalia's Gary Stewart, a senior at Vidalia High who helped lead the Vikings to the Class 3A state championship game last season.
But Pasternack can talk about his program, which was struggling to begin with when he took over and took a bigger hit from Hurricane Katrina.
It's been a roller coaster ride to say the least.
Soon after a student vote to increase athletic fees failed, and UNO athletes, coaches and staff were told that athletic programs were in jeopardy, a pledged support of the local business community, starting with Hornets owner George Shinn, brought life back into the program.
Shinn will chair a committee designed to help UNO raise money for athletics and will contribute financially to the university, but he would not disclose a dollar figure on his donation. He also pledged to help the athletic department in other ways, such as ticket sales and marketing.
The university and its supporters, notably businessman John Georges and Georges Enterprises Chief Operating Officer and former UNO player Gabe Corchiani, are also in the rebuilding process.
When Pasternack first approached John Georges about helping the Privateers program, it was with relatively modest aspirations. But a $75,000 request to go for locker-room improvements turned into a $1 million gift last year— the largest in the history of the Privateer Athletic Foundation.
The donation was made in conjunction with Gabe Corchiani, Georges' business partner and a former UNO standout.
As a result of the donation, the floor of Lakefront Arena will be called "Corchiani Court," in honor of Corchiani, a guard who played at UNO from 1984-89 and is the school's career assists and 3-point percentage leader, and his late father, Gabe Sr., who coached his son at Hialeah-Miami Lakes High School in Miami.
The money, to be paid over a five-year period, will be used to enhance the program, starting with additions to the locker room to which the team will be returning this fall after spending the past three seasons in the Human Performance Center because of damage to the arena from Hurricane Katrina.
"That was huge," Pasternack said of the donation. "It allows us to have one of the top facilities in the state."
But the bottom line is winning. And with the hard-working Pasternack at the helm, that was sure to come.
UNO mixed work with pleasure during a four-day Labor Day weekend trip to Cancun, Mexico earlier this month. The Privateers played a pair of games against some Mexican professional teams and also found some time to relax.On the work side of things, UNO split a pair of games - defeating La Rebotera 84-41 after dropping a 79-66 decision to Pioneros."I thought we saw a lot of positives this weekend," said UNO head coach Joe Pasternack. "Our newcomers really performed well, and we have a number of guys who will make an immediate impact. It was a great team-building experience."
Against La Rebotera, sophomore guard Charles Carmouche scored a game-high 18 points and hit three 3-pointers. He was one of four Privateers in double figures.Junior college transfer Devin McDonald had 13 points and four steals, while Destin Damachoua and newcomer Quincy Diggs added 12 points each. Damachoua also contributed seven steals.
"We're really excited about this year," Pasternack said. "I've got the best guards I've ever had and that's what you win with. And our big guys are more experienced."
Pasternack is excited about 6-foot-8, 220 pound forward J.L. Lewis from Episcopal High.
"He is so skilled and played terrific in Cancun," Pasternack said.
The exceptional players will not be the exception at UNO any longer.
"I went into a high school recently and the coach told me one of his players, who is one of the top players in the state, really likes our program and all we have to do is be able to sell it to him," Pasternack said. "There's a good buzz going around about our program. We're bringing in quality players who can compete. We're ready to take on the Western Kentuckys."
And he couldn't think of a better place to be coaching.
"I'm really excited to be back in my home state and having the opportunity to lead this university's basketball team back to being one of the best," Pasternack said.
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