- Associated Press - Monday, December 6, 2010

NEW YORK (AP) - Josh Pastner was first up on a media conference call for the Jimmy V Classic. He was humbled to be the first of the four coaches to speak.

“It’s three Hall of Fame coaches and me,” the 33-year-old second-year coach from Memphis said Monday. “If any of them want to cut in early, I’ll just hang up.”

Pastner’s 13th-ranked Tigers (7-0) open the doubleheader at Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night against No. 4 Kansas (7-0). The other game features No. 7 Michigan State (6-2) against No. 8 Syracuse (8-0).

He wasn’t correct with his comment because only Boeheim is in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, although Tom Izzo of Michigan State and Kansas’ Bill Self are pretty good bets to one day join the Syracuse coach in Springfield, Mass.

Pastner was 6 years old when Jim Valvano led North Carolina State to the national championship in 1983, and 15 when Valvano gave his memorable “Don’t Ever Give Up” speech in March 1993, a month before he succumbed to cancer at age 47.

Still, Pastner has memories of the coach whose cancer foundation has raised more than $80 million for research.

“I remember watching Coach Valvano when he got up there and gave one of the amazing talks about life,” Pastner said. “It was about his life in general and he recognized how precious life is. I never met Coach Valvano but I admired him from afar. I grew up in Houston and a Houston fan with Phi Slamma Jamma and he beat them for the title. I’ll never forget that or how he made us look at how precious life is.”

All four schools are making their third appearance in the doubleheader, which will be at the Garden for the fourth time and is expected to be a sellout.

“It means a lot,” Boeheim said of the annual event. “I fought cancer and had a lot of friends who didn’t make it, coaching friends, too. Jimmy left a great legacy, something he’ll always be known for. Jimmy was a great basketball coach and the funniest guy I’ve ever been around. He left something he would be proud of.”

The game with Syracuse is the end of a rough opening to the 2010-11 season for the Spartans, whose losses were to Connecticut in the Maui Invitational semifinals and at Duke.

“I look back at my whole career and I always ran through some kind of a tough gauntlet,” Izzo said. “Maybe I did bite off more than I can chew this time but for me it’s pretty normal to be playing them where and when we did.”

Self, as did all the coaches, said his team is a work in progress and that quality opponents early in the season can only help teams reach their goal of the Final Four, which will be in Houston in April.

“We’re so far down the road from being at that point,” he said. “There could be something that will happen (Tuesday) that we’re not prepared for and Memphis will probably be the same. It can happen with a different defense, maybe a zone you haven’t faced. The things you don’t get to work on in the first month of the season and you put in how you go. We don’t trick it up much and Memphis doesn’t either. But in the NCAA tournament you are always worried about a style you won’t see till the NCAA tournament and Memphis is that way with its incredibly athletic team.”