They still play good basketball on the West Coast.
But it didn’t take the past Final Four event to convince someone who was born in Ferriday and grew up in New Orleans of that fact.
Cal-Santa Barbara men’s basketball coach Joe Pasternack has known that since arriving as head coach of the Gauchos in 2017.
And now Cal-Santa Barbara is part of that after winning the Big West, and coming close to upsetting Creighton in a first-round contest.
“It was an amazing experience,” Pasternack said. “It was so great to be part of the best of the best.”
Pasternack has an 88-33 through four years at UCSB, which is good for a .727 winning percentage, the best in school history. Pasternack has also paced the program to four straight 20 win seasons for the first time in school history.
This past season, Pasternack made his first-ever trip to the Big Dance as a head basketball coach after Cal-Santa Barbara captured the Big West Tournament championship.
Pasternack, whose team won the regular season, as well, was named Big West Coach of the Year.
The Gauchos, who finished 22-4, received a No. 12 seed, falling to No. 5 seed Creighton 63-62 in a first-round tournament contest.
UC-Santa Barbara used a 21-5 run to turn a 10-point second half deficit into a 58-52 lead with 5:37 to play, but in the end fifth-seeded Creighton battled back and won the thriller by one point after an attempted lay-up with seconds remaining bounced off the rim. Creighton missed the front end of the 1-and-1 with 1.8 seconds to play, but a last second heave from beyond mid-court fell short to end the game.
“I get reminded every day walking through Santa Barbara and people coming up to me and talking just making the tournament, much less the way we competed,” Pasternack said.
Pasternack said he received calls from conference schools and past acquaintances before the Creighton game.
“Everybody was rooting for us,” he said. “I believe we put Santa Barbara basketball on the map.”
Pasternack also credited the NCAA for making the season and postseason tournament happen.
“It’s really amazing how the NCAA put everyone in the bubble, and to have only one team (Virginia Commonwealth) unable to play because of COVID-19. They protected everyone to get to the championship. Every day they were testing, which is quite a bit of testing. They went to the Nth degree to make sure we made it through, and what a great tournament it was. It was really neat staying in the same hotel as so many great teams.”
UCSB came so close to being the 20th upset winner of the tournament.
“This game can’t define our season,” Pasternack said. “Our players did such an amazing job, off the court with COVID and on the court competing for championships.”
Unfortunately, Pasternack cannot enjoy it for long.
“As soon as that final horn sounded we had to get to work for next season,” Pasternack said. “This season certainly helped us recruiting-wise. We’re known nationally now. We’re really excited for next year. We’re at the point now where we’re building a program built to last.”