University of Arizona basketball has a new Jewish assistant coach, Joe Pasternack.
Pasternack, 34, came to the UA in May from the University of New Orleans, where he was head coach for four years. He’s friends with former UA assistant coach Josh Pastner, who is now head coach at the University of Memphis.
“I was at Cal-Berkeley for eight years when he was here at Arizona,” Pasternack says. “We formed a relationship, we’re close friends. I think that probably both of us being Jewish helps the bond.”
Pasternack grew up in New Orleans, where he went to Sunday school at a Reform synagogue and became a Bar Mitzvah. He played varsity high school basketball for four years. A 1999 graduate of Indiana University with a degree in marketing, he was a manager for the Hoosier basketball team for four years under coach Bob Knight. Pasternack was an administrator and coach at the University of California from 2000 to 2007.
“We’re excited to be in Tucson. The community’s been very welcoming,” says Pasternack, who notes that it’s been a whirlwind since he and his wife, Lindsay, arrived here with their children, Joe (5) and Lilly (1).
Lindsay, a UA alumna, is on the board of the Tucson Jewish Community Center, where their son plays basketball. Pasternack spoke to a Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona men’s group a few months ago, but otherwise he’s been pretty busy with the team.
As for the Wildcats, “our team is a work in progress right now. It’s been very difficult losing Derek Williams, who was a terrific scorer,” he says. (Williams went pro last spring after two years at the UA and now plays for the Minnesota Timberwolves).
“We’re losing some really close games,” says Pasternack. “A couple of games by one point or two points determines whether we’re in first place in the PAC-12 right now, but we’re definitely getting better. The second half of the PAC-12 [started last week] so we’re ready to go. I think we can beat anybody in our conference.”