Memphis basketball coach Josh Pastner has been called a number of things in his career, "visionary" and "basketball coaching prodigy" among them. What he hasn't been accused of in the past is running a dirty program.
No one is accusing the Memphis wunderkind coach of sullying the team he has led for two seasons, but a year after Pastner committed the only recruiting violation in his coaching career -- a secondary infraction that came innocuously after Memphis' own compliance office cleared his attendance at a player's summer league game -- his closest relative may have committed a more direct violation that could affect the Tigers going forward.
On May 28, superstar recruit Rodney Purvis, the top shooting guard in the class of 2012 and the No. 7 overall recruit among rising seniors, announced he was adding Memphis to the list of schools he is considering for his college career.
The decision moved the Tigers into rarified air with the likes of Kentucky, North Carolina State, Duke and Louisville, and was made via Purvis' personal Twitter account. Naturally, there's nothing wrong with that, with Twitter use among top recruits rising on a daily basis.
A screenshot of Purvis' tweet about considering the Tigers can be seen directly below.
What may be more problematic is a tweet that followed just a day later, sent out by Courtney Pastner, the sister and confidant of Josh Pastner. On May 29, Courtney Pastner sent out the following tweet, in response to a tweet Purvis made about a particularly disappointing loss he suffered with his AAU team at the Nike Elite Youth Basketball League in Los Angeles:
As the tweet makes abundantly clear, there is no doubt that the younger Pastner is making public, direct contact with a recruit via social media, something which would be a clear violation if Pastner was doing so himself. The question is whether Courtney Pastner is "someone affiliated with the Memphis institution." Considering her relationship with her brother and her understandably open pro-Memphis bent (see her Twitter background above, for instance), Prep Rally is inclined to say that she should be tabbed as someone connected with the Tigers.
Here is the particular NCAA rule regarding social media that Courtney Pastner appears to be in violation of:
"NCAA rules do not allow comments about possible recruits on an institution's social media page or a page belonging to someone affiliated with the institution. In addition, these pages cannot feature photos of prospects and messages cannot be sent to recruits using these social media technologies other than through their e-mail function."
According to Rivals.com recruiting analyst Mike Farrell, coaches themselves can send direct messages to players' Twitter feeds, just as they can "inbox" a player on Facebook without penalty. In fact, they can do both of those things without limit. What they can't do is precisely what Courtney Pastner did: Make a public Twitter response to a player, which is viewable by everyone else on Twitter at large.
All this means is that the essence of whether Courtney Pastner's tweet can be considered a violation or not almost surely boils down to whether she can be considered affiliated with the University of Memphis. Professionally, the younger Pastner serves as the director of marketing for Vision Sports, a Houston-area company that runs an in-season basketball league and summer basketball camps. The organization holds an affiliation with the Houston Hoops, a program which Josh Pastner coached at age 16.
What may make the case of a potential violation more clear cut is Courtney Pastner's own admission in her tweet -- which Purvis re-tweeted -- that she was in attendance at his AAU game in Los Angeles. It's possible that Pastner was simply in Los Angeles on some other business related to Vision Sports, but her presence at the EYBL, and the timing of her tweet after Purvis announced he was considering Memphis, seems fishy at best and illegally planted at worst.
The younger Pastner, a high school girls basketball star in Texas who went on to play for both Texas Tech and Houston, has been described by the Memphis Commercial Appeal as reverentially devoted to her older brother, another aspect which can't help the tweet's case for legality.
As it stands, there doesn't appear to be any kind of a precedent for how the NCAA will handle such a scenario. Neither Farrell nor Rivals.com national basketball recruiting analyst Jerry Meyer have ever encountered a similar situation where the relative of a coach had reached out directly to a highly rated prospect.
While it's impossible to know how the NCAA will react to the tweet, at least one ACC assistant basketball coach told a Prep Rally source, "No way [Courtney Pastner's tweet] could be legal." So long as that coach's program hasn't made similar missteps, Prep Rally would bet he'll be hoping the NCAA views the situation the same way.