It’s been an interesting past few days for Josh Pastner. First, news trickled out last last week that Georgia Tech indefinitely suspended two of its key players. Josh Okogie, one of the ACC’s elite wings, and Tadric Jackson reportedly took impermissible benefits in the form of cash payments.
Georgia Tech self-reported the violations. According to the school, Okogie and Jackson took payments of $725 and $525, respectively.
That picture changed a great deal on Tuesday, thanks to Gary Parrish of CBS Sports.
— Gary Parrish (@GaryParrishCBS) November 7, 2017
What’s the shake?
Parrish reports that a longtime friend of Josh Pastner — Ron Bell, a denizen of Arizona — claims to be the one that supplied Okogie and Jackson with money. And perhaps more, too.
According to Bell, the money he supplied to Okogie and Jackson exceeds the amount that Georgia Tech self-reported. Bell, who works in real estate, alleges that he spent over $500 on groceries when the two players spend time at his house in Arizona back in May. That’s not all, though, according to Parrish’s report:
The NCAA should also be considering, he said, a 220-mile roundtrip ride from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport to Bell’s house in Tucson, which Bell said he provided for both players, as an impermissible benefit. And after adding up other various expenses, including a $120 meal Bell said he had with Okogie and Jackson at a Houston’s in Atlanta.
A look at the timelime
When Georgia Tech self-reported the impermissible benefits back on Oct. 2, the program claimed that Josh Pastner wasn’t aware of Bell’s participation until that day. This, too, is contested by Bell, who claims Pastner knew of the four-day stay Okogie and Jackson had this May at his house.
Oct. 2 seems to be a significant moment, though, as this all unraveled. Bell believes the only reason Pastner reported the violations was self-preservation: their relationship had deteriorated. Bell threatened to shed light on the violations with Okogie and Jackson.
An examination of Bell’s phone records by CBS Sports showed that Bell and Pastner spoke 10 different times for a total of 105 minutes on Oct. 2. The first call that day originated at 11:07 a.m. ET. The 10th and final call that day originated at 10:15 p.m. ET. Bell’s phone records do not show any evidence of calls between the two men since that day.
As Bell describes to CBS Sports, his relationship with Pastner dates back to the coach’s days as a player at Arizona — which Bell also attended. That continued when Pastner joined the coaching staff at Arizona in 2002; Bell claims that Pastner used to frequently leave him tickets for Wildcats games.
The two appear to have been very close during this time, which Bell admits: he suffered from a prescription drug addiction during. There’s even a 20-month-old story from the Memphis Commercial Appeal in which Bell claims that Paster helped kick his addiction.
Bell also admitted to providing a Memphis player with gift cards for groceries. During the conclusion of Pastner’s tenure at Memphis, Bell was nearly omnipresent — at games, radio shows and interviews to show support for a rapidly-sinking ship.
According to Bell he spent a great deal of time around the Yellow Jackets last season. During this team, he provided the money to Okogie and Jackson because Pastner feared players transferring out.
However, things apparently started to sour between the two over the last year — which would align with Pastner’s arrival in Atlanta and beyond.
Bell believes he wasn’t compensated properly for his efforts, and was even upset that Pastner failed to call him on his birthday.
Georgia Tech basketball is currently in China; the Yellow Jackets are to play the UCLA Bruins Friday night in Shanghai. Pastner, from China, released a statement to CBS Sports today that read:
“As I have throughout my career, I remain committed to following NCAA rules. Any allegations that NCAA rules weren’t followed will be investigated thoroughly by our compliance department while I focus on coaching my team.”
Make all of this somehow stranger, too: Local Chinese police were called to the team’s hotel in Hangzhou on Tuesday morning. Three members of the team were questioned and cleared by the police, per the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.