The biology was great, but the chemistry was better.
That's what Josh Pastner says about the 1997 National Championship University of Arizona basketball team.
Those Wildcats of Coach Lute Olson will gather for their ten-year reunion as part of the Lute Olson All-Star Classic, Aug. 17-19.
A dinner on Saturday, Aug. 18, honoring the national champs will be held in the grand ballroom of the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa, 3800 East Sunrise Drive in Tucsonm. Tickets, at $175 per person and $2,000 for a reserved table for 10, are available by calling 520-621-7491.
Pastner was a freshman guard out of Kingwood, Texas, in 1996-97.
One of the most popular Wildcats ever, Josh remains a very important part of the Lute Olson program as assistant coach. He is now the senior partner in terms of seniority, on Olson's coaching staff.
He was also the team leader in the classroom: Josh graduated in 2 1/2 years.
"We were a young team that just happened to come together at the right time," Pastner said of the
1996-97 Wildcats, one of the great Cinderella stories in NCAA history.
The Cats finished fifth in the Pacific-10 Conference that year and lost their final two games of the regular season, to Stanford and California in the Bay Area. Some critics wondered if Olson's team would even get an invitation to the NCAA Tournament.
So what did the Cats do? They won it all.
"The chemistry was off-the-charts great at the perfect time,"
Pastner said. "We all believed we could win it from Day 1 of school."
Pastner's playing time was limited, but he was always encouraging and supporting his teammates. He also helped them with such crucial parts of their game as shooting. If anyone was ever destined to be a coach, it was Josh.
"We finished fifth in the Pac-10, yes," he said, "but it was a very tough league.
"When you have players like we had, with a Hall of Famer coaching them, then the only way to believe is that we were going to win it all."
Josh said what he remembers most from the national championship overtime victory against Kentucky was, "One year earlier, I was in my living room watching Kentucky play in the championship game. A year later, here I am sitting on the sidelines watching us play Kentucky for the National Championship!"
Pastner said he is "really pumped up to see the guys again."
"We had such a close-knit group," he said. "That really was a special team and they are all lifelong friends. For us to get together is pretty darn neat.
"And you know what? I think Coach Olson might allow Bennett Davison to mess up his hair again, just for old time's sake."