A personal friend of Georgia Tech basketball coach Josh Pastner is speaking out about paying the program’s players upon request.
Ron Bell, a man that Pastner has publicly referred to as “part of our family and part of our team,” spoke to CBS Sports’s Gary Parrish about the NCAA violations he committed on behalf of the second-year Yellow Jackets coach.
Last week, Georgia Tech suspended two guards—Josh Okogie and Tadric Jackson, two of the team’s three leading scorers from last season—indefinitely after self-reporting violations.
Bell was not named in the report, but he detailed his payments to Parrish, and says that Georgia Tech undersold what he did for the players. From CBS Sports:
According to the school, Jackson accepted benefits totaling less than $525 while Okogie accepted benefits totaling less than $750. Bell turned over documents to CBS Sports that show he spent $233.40 on a plane ticket for Okogie, sent him three pairs of shoes totaling around $444 and ordered him two shirts totaling $56. Bell also provided CBS Sports with documents that show he spent $233.40 on a plane ticket for Jackson, sent him two pairs of shoes totaling around $271 and ordered him Knicks apparel worth $80.
That amount is roughly what Tech reported, but Bell says he provided further benefits that were not covered.
He said he also spent “about $500” on groceries for the players when they stayed at his house from May 9-13, and he provided photo evidence of Okogie and Jackson in his swimming pool. 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, the 51 year-old who works in the real estate business concluded he’s definitely given Okogie more than $750 and Jackson more than $525 in impermissible benefits.
“It’s not even close,” Bell said.
Bell says that Pastner implied that he should pay the players, telling him that he needed to “make sure my players are happy and that we’re winning games. Whatever it takes.” Bell’s girlfriend Jennifer Pendley corroborates much of Bell’s story, adding that she saw envelopes of cash that Pastner gave him to move to the players.
Why does Bell appear to be selling out Pastner, who he has been so close to? The issue, at least in part, stems from the fact that the Tech head coach did not call him on his birthday.
He said he feels Pastner has failed to compensate him properly for the “work” he’s done. He said Pastner didn’t call him on his birthday this year, which is something he interpreted as disrespectful. He said he has for a while had a bad relationship with Georgia Tech’s program and operations manager, Ellie Cantkier, and that when the two had a disagreement recently he felt Pastner “took her side.”
We’ll continue to track this story as more comes out. Suffice it to say, this is not a story that Pastner wants breaking as he and the team prepare for the season opener against UCLA in China on Friday night.