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COLUMN: First impression of Tech coach is good one

Much has been written and said about the importance of first impressions. My mother taught her nine children to always be aware of how we presented ourselves when meeting someone for the first time. I can remember her saying, “You never get a second chance to make a good first impression.”

Tuesday evening at Heritage First Bank, the local Georgia Tech Alumni Club hosted Tech’s men’s basketball coach, Josh Pastner. Coach Pastner left me with a good first impression. He is a positive and sincere person, and a great choice to lead the basketball program for the Yellow Jackets.

Pastner discussed last year’s highly successful season and offered the Tech faithful a look at the upcoming season. When answering questions from the audience he gave concise answers that proved he is not just a coach, he is a leader and mentor of young men. I think he is a leader to all students and young people, not just athletes. When discussing particular players he showed great respect for the individual person, not just the basketball player.

Part of the college experience is learning how to be successful at work and life. Coach Pastner brought in a U.S. Marine and Navy Seal to teach life motivational skills that would help his players succeed on the court, in class and in life. Pastner told the story of how the Marine helped senior forward Quinton Stephens overcome an injury. Stephens had complained that he might not be able to play the next game because his toe was hurt. The Marine overheard the complaint and pulled the player aside to share a story of a fellow soldier losing both legs on the battlefield to an IED. The wounded soldier was more concerned with finding his weapon to defend his fellow soldiers than missing his legs. The Marine told Stephens he never wanted to hear a complaint about a big toe. Stephens played the game and was a key to many Tech victories.

Another part of the college experience is the student body coming together to pull for their fellow student-athletes. As Pastner made his remarks, it became obvious that his chief concern must be to prepare his student-athletes physically and mentally to win basketball games. Pastner also realized that a packed student section would provide an advantage as his team entered the NIT tournament. Showing the value he placed on students and their participation, Pastner bought game tickets for all students that wanted to attend the Jackets’ NIT game against Indiana University. The students needed tickets, and the coach and team needed their energy and noise. Realizing that students had to buy tickets to NIT games, the coach offered to not only foot the bill; he sweetened deal, and bought 100 dozen doughnuts to be delivered to students who showed up early. Just before his remarks to the Rome Yellow Jackets a group of young Yellow Jackets personally delivered four dozen doughnuts to the coach. As you would expect, the coach took that in good stride.

The ticket and doughnut strategy worked, and he gives credit to the students for helping the team win the game. Teamwork involves more than just the players, and Coach Pastner obviously gets that.

There were other stories for sure, but the message that I took away from Coach Pastner is that we should all be prepared to notice when a young person needs us to offer encouragement, support and maybe discipline. We all have skills that can be used to help others become self-starters. We also have a source that allows us to help that student reach deep for internal motivation.

Georgia Tech has a great community leader and a great basketball coach that the Tech community can be proud of.

Go Jackets!

Otis Raybon is the publisher of the Rome News-Tribune.