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October 12, 2022

Josh Pastner

Rodney Howard

Kyle Sturdivant

Charlotte, North Carolina, USA

Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets

Press Conference

Q. Coach, I was just curious kind of as you look at your schedule this year, it seemed like you were a little overscheduled last year. What was your approach to setting up a non-conference schedule and how will that impact your season?

JOSH PASTNER: Yeah, you know, last year when we scheduled, I was assuming and thinking that we were going to get Alvarado, José Alvarado back, and Moses Wright, so I thought schedule to play for seeding because I thought we had a realistic shot at going to the Final Four with those two guys; the whole team would be coming back.

Unfortunately those guys had left, and they left really late. It's worked out for both of them, but we struggled some last year. We were a little up and down because we did play a tough schedule, but it gave some guys some opportunities with minutes to get great experience to really help us this year.

So I felt for this year, scheduling-wise, to make sure that we had a little bit of a better balance. We still have a really tough schedule. Kelly and -- there's just in this day and age no gimmes anymore. Everyone is really good. Winning is just so hard. Winning one game is hard, but every possession is just -- it's a fight. It's a compete to try to win that possession.

I think the league is going to -- and I think the ACC is going to be just outstanding. There's been a lot of guys in the league who probably should have left, but because of the NIL and the extra COVID year, it gave them the opportunity to come back, when maybe two years ago they would have all had vacated the league.

Because of that, the league is just going to be that much better next season.

I think Carolina -- I know this sounds crazy when I say this. It's not my only crazy comment, but I do think Carolina should be preseason ranked No. 1 in the country, but I think Virginia should be No. 1 ranked in the ACC poll.

How can you do that? I'm telling you, I think Virginia is really good. They should be ranked 1 in the ACC and Carolina should be ranked 1 the national polls, but then in the ACC Carolina might be ranked 2. That's how good I think the league is.

I just think there's just a lot of good teams.

I know you say how does that make it work? I coach at Georgia Tech, I'm not a student at Georgia Tech, so how does that add up, but that's just kind of my theory on that.

Q. Kyle, eight returners, eight familiar faces coming back into the program. Got to bring a level of familiarity and comfort, yes?

JOSH PASTNER: Yes, and two of the eight are the guys to my left, Kyle Sturdivant, guy to my right, Rodney Howard. Both young men are fourth year guys in college. They've got two extra years still of eligibility with the COVID, but they are seniors, but with still two years left.

But both gentlemen have been really good. They've been part of the ACC championship team. We're relying on -- yes, we've got a lot of guys back, but these two we're really relying on to have a really good year for us, and for our team to be successful, these guys got to really be good.

It doesn't have to be about scoring, it's just got to be all the little things that's about winning. We've talked about the key for our team this year is the star of the team is the team, and that's our star, is the team. The star of our team is our team.

I always say the open man is the go-to man. The go-to man is the open man. That's kind of got to be our philosophy in everything we do when we're playing, and these two guys are a big part of that. They've gotten a lot better.

I'm excited to see them -- I'm excited for everyone to see them play publicly and to see their improvement, because that's been a staple of our program has been player development, and these two guys will model that for this season.

Q. Kyle, how comfortable is it when you do pick up the ball and head on to the court knowing that those faces out there, you've got a sense of who they are?

KYLE STURDIVANT: Yeah, it's definitely giving me a sense of comfortability knowing the guys, and this is our second year playing together, so it's a sense of knowing where people like the ball and knowing where we're going to have our spots to attack the defenses at.

So I feel like that year last year gave us a lot of experience, and this year is going to benefit from it.

Q. Rodney, with your status within the program being a senior, I'm assuming you're a bit of a leader both on and off the floor. Describe that leadership still.

RODNEY HOWARD: Just getting the guys to buy in every day, showing up on time, taking the weight room serious, on court serious. As long as we play as a team, we'll be fine.

Q. Does the advent of the NIL change the mindset of going pro since student-athletes can now get paid while in college?

JOSH PASTNER: I think the NIL is great for the student-athletes. It gives them an opportunity to continue to get other opportunities, so I think it's a really positive thing.

I think the initial thing of the NIL was for name, image, likeness, which you have a chance to benefit out of that. I think probably some of the NIL has taken kind of a path of its own where maybe they didn't expect it to go down that road and things like that, so eventually they'll -- guardrails maybe will come in, what you can and can't do. But it's good for the student-athlete.

What's interesting is -- obviously it's legal and it's all allowed per the rules, but there will be teams that we could play throughout the course of the season when -- you could be playing a team that, you know, they could be -- you're literally playing pros. When I say pros, in terms of financial pros.

So that will be an interesting dynamic, where really this is the first year where it's really -- it was alive last year, but this is kind of the first year where it's really hot and heavy.

It's almost like some of those NBA teams were big market or small market teams based on kind of the salary thing, but it's allowable and that's kind of the way it is.

I really think it's good for the student-athletes to have that opportunity to be able to do that, so anything to give them the opportunities to better themselves, I'm all for.

KYLE STURDIVANT: Yeah, I think it's great for the student-athletes, not only for the student-athletes, but for the college basketball game, as well. I don't think people will make decisions solely based on financial situations. I feel like dudes can have more time to improve on the court and off the court maturity-wise and get to really enjoy the college experience.

So I think NIL is very beneficial for student-athletes.

RODNEY HOWARD: The NIL, there's pros and cons to it, though, but it helps us, helps student-athletes be able to have some sort of finances coming through and support whatever we have off the court.

Q. Rodney, last year you had an ankle injury that kept you out for five games. During those five games, what did you learn about yourself? What did you learn about the Georgia Tech program watching it from the sideline?

RODNEY HOWARD: You know, that was probably one of my biggest injuries that I had to sit out for a game -- well, multiple games. I learned a lot looking at the sidelines as far as the team playing out there without me, just the dynamic of how everything was going.

Q. Coach, when you look into the portal, what are you looking for?

JOSH PASTNER: You know, when we're looking in the portal we're constantly trying to find the right fit. Georgia Tech is one of the elite academic schools in the world. I think it's the only FBS school to play football in Division I that does not have a bachelor of arts; everything is a bachelor of science. To be a student, to be a student-athlete, it's incredible. It's amazing.

It's a science, math, and technology school, and to be able to do what these young men do and the rest of the students, it's remarkable.

There's very few online classes, if any, at Georgia Tech, and so the time we get them for practice, they've had a full day.

But look, a lot of the people that graduate from Georgia Tech are -- they build the airplanes and build the bridges, so you want them to learn in the classroom, not online building those things.

That's what's so great about the school. 14 people went to outer space that are Georgia Tech grads. They found water on Mars from Georgia Tech. That's what's amazing about this school. It's incredible.

It's a real honor to be able to be coaching there.

By the way, does everyone know Mike Stamus? Mike Stamus is my guy back there, our SID. He's been in the trenches at Georgia Tech for 30, 40 years. He's a legend there at Georgia Tech. I wanted to give him his due.

I've got to give Paul Brazeau his due, the good-looking man in the front row. Of course I love you, too, Trip, but I've talked to Paul a bunch. Yesterday there was a story in the Commercial Appeal because Dan Wilkin, when I first got the job at Georgia Tech, Dan was the beat writer for the University of Memphis men's basketball. 14 years later I am still the head coach and here I am right across the way from Dan.

But in the picture in the Commercial Appeal yesterday I told these guys this, there was a look-back 10 years ago. In fact, I thought Dan actually wrote the article. I was holding my cell phone, it was a flip phone at the time, I had two kids at the time, holding a baby.

That was 10 years ago today. Time flies, 10 years ago later, I told these guys, I'm still on the phone holding a baby. I just had my fourth kid 11 months ago. So nothing changes.

I say all of that to say Georgia Tech is awesome. What an incredible school. I know I'm on a little tangent, but for these guys to go to school at Georgia Tech, play athletics, the school is amazing. It is an amazing academic institution, and when you get -- when you're looking in the portal, I know I've gone a little off line, but when you're looking in the portal, you've got to have the right fit.

And the right fit is it's a special, special place academically and it's a real honor to be around these young men and to see what they -- when Kyle shows me his homework and it's like the math class these guys are in, it looks like alien spacecraft. It's unbelievable.

But these guys, that's just the power of these young men here. They're really, really special.

Q. Rodney, on October 30 Georgia Tech is going to host an open house with the women's basketball team, so it'll be a partnership. Describe your relationship with the program on the other side of the hall.

RODNEY HOWARD: You know, I don't know too many of them, but I know a few of them. Our relationship is good. It's going to be a fun deal. We didn't have the opportunity to do it last year, so it should be fun, a great experience, have all the fans in the building.

JOSH PASTNER: Trip, by the way, Nell Fortner is the women's basketball coach, and I'm telling you this, by the end of her time there, her name will be on the court along with Bobby Cremins. That's how good Nell Fortner is. She's won a gold medal with the USA Olympic team, as well, if you didn't know that.

But by the end of her time when she decides to retire, and hopefully that's 10, 15, 20 years down the road, her name will be on the court with Bobby Cremins at McCamish Pavilion with the women's team.

KYLE STURDIVANT: Yeah, I'm excited for the season. I want everyone else to be excited. I think you guys will be entertained and impressed to see everyone's improvement from guy 1 through 15 on the roster. Yeah, go Jackets.

RODNEY HOWARD: I've got one more thing. Coach Pastner has done a terrific job of letting his assistants lead the way. Coach Wilkins stepped into a big role as associate head coach and he looks like he's been doing this for a long time. He's been doing great development over the off-season.

JOSH PASTNER: I've hired good people along the way. My assistant coaches have been outstanding.

Kyle spoke the other night at this banquet -- how good was he? He was incredible. He was an incredible speaker. He did a great speech. He was one of our four speakers, and he spoke. Georgia Tech is just outstanding. Georgia Institute of Technology.

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