Good analysis. You make a lot of good point for sure. I don't agree on your recruting assessments but you make a well laid out case. In my view the 2021 class with the 3 sophs and Smith is the only really good recruting class that didn't rely on real longshots. In my view classes similar to that one are necessary annually, not necessarily 4 players, but at least 2 of equal caliber if GT is to be an above average ACC team.Pastner has had his issues with recruiting no doubt but they are exaggerated sometimes unintentionally and sometimes disingenuously by ignoring the new realities of transfers being key.
Lets go by his classes.
2017 - Brought in Jose, Moses, Evan Cole and Curtis Haywood. At the time it looked like a solid PG, a solid wing, and two projects. In retrospect it was an ACC PoY, ACC DPoY, an okay depth piece for a couple years. HE also brought in Brandon Alston who gave us a solid depth guard which we needed. Overall this was a great class at identifying hidden talent, the thing a lot of people constantly point to needing.
2018 - Brought in Devoe, Sjolund, Khalid Moore, and James Banks as a two year transfer. At that time Devoe was a highly thought of prospect, Moore a solid wing guy, Sjolund a project, and Banks a high potential player at a position of need that was unproven. As it turned out Devoe was great, Moore was basically what we thought (role wing player), Sjolund a bust, and Banks a great defensive big with okay offensive tools. Also brought in Phillips to provide us with a little PG depth but it didn't really pan out for him here.
Those two years were solid recruiting years. People remember otherwise because our roster was in such a bad situation we were hoping for absolute home run classes. But the classes themselves each brought in two multi year high level performers and another player that was a multi year depth piece.
2019 - Didenko and Price with Usher and Parham as transfers. This was the big swing and miss class, and even at the time it was seen as bad. Neither the recruits gave us anything. But Usher was a huge get who was a 2.5 year contributor and Parham gave us two good years of depth at guard despite not living up to billing that he had at VMI. Bad HS recruiting, but good additions out of the portal.
2020 - Gigiberia, Maxwell, Meka from HS and Howard and Sturdivant out of the portal. At the time Gigiberia committed he was a 4* while Maxwell and Meka were both good prospects (I believe Maxwell was mr basketball in Carolina). Gigi never panned out while Maxwell and Meka both had injuries early and often that hindered them. Wasn't a phenomenal class but it had solid potential pieces. In retrospect the injuries to Maxwell and Meka leave it the most what if class to me. Howard was an okay depth piece, but at the time it seemed the idea was to have him try to help bridge the gap while Gigiberia got experience. However, Gigi didn't develop, and Howard was just missued . I don't really know how much I would chalk those two to bad recruiting vs misuse and a lack of development. Either way it lands on Pastner. Sturdivant was the cream of the crop having already given us two solid years of production, and returning next year having finished the season strong.
2021 - Kelly, Coleman, Moore and bringing in Smith with 4 years of eligibility. Easily Pastner's best class at time of signing. 3 four stars and Moore was borderline iirc. And all four have them have shown potential already each averaging over 7.5 with Coleman and 9.5 and Kelly at 14.4 as a soph.
2022 - Martynov brought in as a reclassify and Bagatskis as a project. Franklin and Terry out of the portal. Weaker recruits from HS, but too early to see if they pan out. After the 2021 class that isn't terribly surprising as early playing time, for anyone that wasn't a big, wasn't likely to be available. Transfer portal targets were straight up successes. 2nd and 3rd leading scorers, and leading rebounder. Ultimately Franklin being a one year player limits how much he helps the program overall, but we needed someone who could contribute down low right away and he gave us that.
2023 - Blue Cain is a great get. As of right now we only have one more opening and should be, and appear to be, saving it for the transfer portal. Some will argue we should be expecting two or three transfers out and go ahead and lock in another recruit or two, but Pastner isn't the type to run off players to get under cap, nor would I want him to be, and it's possible we're planning to go heavier in the portal. One of the new dynamics is it's probably ideal to have some players go spend their first year or two somewhere else and then transfer in. That way you're getting the more productive years without spending the scholarship on the development years. In any case, we'll have to see how it all plays out.
Overall, the two middle years of 19-20 weren't good for different reasons (19 just not good overall, and injuries hurt 20 a good bit) and that is hurting us as we move into the years they would have been upperclassmen. Otherwise, when you're considering both highschool players and transfers, the classes have in general been good enough to be competitive but not spectacular, and not good enough to overcome the 19/20 classes so far. IF Pastner can continue to bring in the type of classes that have 2 or 3 multi year contributors (either starters or even depth pieces) then we should be able to get back to being competitive most years. The caveat to that is he has to figure out his big man use.
The reality is unless we up our NIL game the level of recruiting, regardless of coach, probably won't go that much higher. Maybe switching coaches brings a bit more consistency, or maybe a bit better fit in regards to bigs, but I wouldn't expect classes of four 4*s or any five stars to be the norm without NIL improvement even if we make a great hire. Then the question is would an improved NIL be enough to get Pastner to where he needs to be in terms of recruiting. There's no way to know, but perhaps with a better NIL program we could have convince Jose and/or Moses to come back one more year. Maybe not but we don't know. Maybe with a better NIL program we could have landed a second impact big out of the portal that could have made a difference this year.
Pastner may or may not be the answer long term, with odds are that he isn't. If we fire him I would wager that his replacement, that we would get this year, likely wouldn't be either. What we do know is we need to improve our NIL competitiveness. Do that and maybe Pastner is the guy. If not we're more likely to land a coach who is. So If we have to chose just one, I'd rather fix the NIL deal first then make the coaching change, if needed, rather than forcing the coaching change now without the NIL situation in place that the better names would probably want. Of course it isn't strictly an either or and it's possible a new coach could themselves help the NIL situation, but that's something I would expect the AD to be considering.
Clearly NIL is an issue going forward. GT has not been competitive for 5 stars since Hewitt brought in Favors. GT is not likely to be getting 5 stars going forward. Getting 1 or 2 solid 4 stars or guys who have blossomed in college should be the norm if we expect to have a competitive BB program. NIL can clearly help.
What role does the coach have with regards to NIL is a fair question. NIL is obviously new and evolving. Coaches can play a significant role in NIL now in year 2 of NIL. Will CJP be active in developing GT BB's NIL program? I don't think any of us know. In my opinion he needs to be heavily involved or he is letting others determine his fate unnecessarily.