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|Pasternack regrouping at UNO|
If anyone can make lemonade out of lemons, it's Joe Pasternack III.
One year after putting together a team he felt was one of the best he's ever had, Pasternack had the rug pulled out from under him after the University of New Orleans was given the approval to move forward with the reclassification process.
UNO, which competed in the Sun Belt Conference is now a member of Division III.
"It's all a culmination of Hurricane Katrina," Pasternack said. "We had 17,000 paying students fees to support athletes. After Katrina, our enrollment was brutalized to 10,500. That's a lot of student fees not coming in."
The students also voted against a tuition raise.
"I was feeling really good about after the first year," Pasternack said. "But it was like the rug was pulled out from under us and the bottom fell out."
Division III schools cannot give scholarships. Pasternack will now have to rely on financial aid, academic awards and TOPS.
His first priority was finding schools for his current players.
"I felt terrible for them because they signed up to compete for a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament and compete in the Sun Belt," Pasternack said. "I worked really hard to find schools for them to go on scholarships."
Charles Carmouche signed with Memphis, while Carl Blair is now at Oklahoma.
Now the 33-year-old Pasternack, who was born in Ferriday but left after a year in kindergarten when parents Joe Jr. and Sarah Pasternack moved to New Orleans, has to start over building a new team.
"That's part of the athletic life and part of our economic situation," he said. "For the past two years, the entire United State has struggled financially. Ultimately, Hurricane Katrina, the biggest natural disaster in the U.S., cost us Division I status."
But starting over is nothing new for Pasternack. When he arrived at UNO in 2007 after serving as an assistant coach at California, he found a program where coaches and players were coming and going and there was no home court to play on because Katrina severely damaged Lakefront Arena.
"It was a mess," Pasternack said. "But we got it back onto a competitive playing level."
UNO withdrew its membership from the Sun Belt Conference on June 30, transitioning to Division III in 2010-11.
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.
Pasternack is now working on completing his 2010-11 schedule, which includes mostly Division III schools, but also Division I schools such as Tulane.
Despite the setbacks, Pasternack said he would not hesitate taking the UNO job again knowing the tough road ahead.
"I am happy to be representing my hometown and home state," Pasternack said. "This is the route I have chosen. And I certainly have no regrets."
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