Georgia State’s new coach: Ron Hunter, dreamer of dreams

Ron Hunter receives a pair of shoes for Samaritan's Feet from Georgia State athletic director Cheryl Levick. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

New Georgia State basketball coach Ron Hunter receives a pair of shoes for his favorite charity Samaritan's Feet from GSU athletic director Cheryl Levick. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

Think it’s hard recruiting for a program that’s 379 games under .500 and plays its games in a walk-up gym? Try doing it at a place where two basketball tentpoles are mentioned in your school’s name.

Ron Hunter comes from IUPUI, which stand for Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. The Indiana Hoosiers have a history of Bobby Knight and Branch McCracken and Isiah Thomas; the Purdue Boilermakers have Gene Keady and Rick Mount as touchstones. The IUPUI Jaguars had a coach who once worked a game in bare feet, and they played in a gym that shares a building with, as Hunter says, “a world-famous swimming pool” (the Indiana University Natatorium).

It’s unclear if anyone can actually win at Georgia State, but Ron Hunter is the man to try. He has spent his vocational life working at urban universities — first as an assistant at Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the past 17 seasons at IUPUI — that were dwarfed by their surroundings. But let the record reflect that Hunter is no dwarf: He’s a big man with a big vision.

“I did not come here to lose,” Hunter told a crowd at the GSU Student Center on Monday. “I am not going to lose.”

Go ahead. Laugh. But know this: Hunter took IUPUI from Division II to Division I — ask Kennesaw State how difficult that transition can be — and hasn’t had a losing record the past 10 years. He took the Jaguars to the Big Dance in 2003, a year after he brought them here and beat Georgia Tech and Paul Hewitt. Granted, Hunter has only the one NCAA tournament to his name, but think of it this way:

If he’d posted, say, five NCAA appearances and a couple of first-round upsets, he wouldn’t have been available when GSU came calling. He’d have been working at  a bigger mid-major and wouldn’t have been interested in the Atlanta school with concrete campus and the walk-up gym.

In Hunter, Georgia State hasn’t just found a coach but a real fit. Said Cheryl Levick, GSU’s savvy athletic director: “He has shown he can succeed at large universities in large cities with stiff competition all around him.”

To succeed at GSU, a coach must not only win (and winning has proved tough enough) but promote. In 2008 Hunter coached a game sans shoes, and since then the charity Samaritan’s Feet has collected more than a quarter of a million pairs of shoes for underprivileged children. His dreams regarding basketball are no less large. He said Monday he wants to schedule his first two games against Kentucky’s John Calipari and Michigan State’s Tom Izzo — two friends who’d called with congratulations — and he vowed to pester the Georgia Tech coach, whoever he is, on a daily basis with a proposal to play in Philips Arena.

“Once you see us play, you’ll come back,” Hunter told the gathering. Also this: “The way we play is a little different; I’ve never ever had a shot clock go off. I’ve never sat down [while coaching] in 17 years.”

The Hunter Method is to press and run. “Our shots are either three-pointers or dunks,” he said. Speaking of which:

In his first day on the job, the new GSU coach looked forward to March 2012 — to the Colonial Athletic Association final “on that Monday night,” he said. “Tie game, 11 seconds to play, and I’m calling timeout.” Speaking to his players, whose names he didn’t yet know, earlier in the day, Hunter had asked who could shoot a trey. James Vincent, a 6-foot-10 sophomore reserve, said he could.

Hunter to his audience, which included Vincent and his teammates: “So the big fella is going to hit a three!”

To win the CAA, the league that includes George Mason, Virginia Commonwealth and Old Dominion. Nothing outrageous there.

Later, someone asked if Vincent had ever taken a three-pointer. “Oh, yeah,” he said. In an actual college game? “Well, not in a game.”

No matter. This coach has already called his shot. “Starting tomorrow,” Hunter said, “he’s going to practice a lot. Five hundred shots a day.”

Over its history, Georgia State has proved to be the impossible job. The Panthers are now coached by a man who has, on a regular basis, dared to dream impossible dreams. This should be fun.

By Mark Bradley

65 comments Add your comment

Woody Paige

March 21st, 2011
6:04 pm

So that stuff that Lefty did at Georgia State wasn’t considered winning? Hmm, didn’t know that….

All I'm Saying Is....

March 21st, 2011
6:41 pm

Too much hoops talent in Metro Atlanta and in Georgia overall plus the academic standards are not quite as demanding downtown as they are up on North Avenue for Georgia State to not to have a winning program and, given the recent challenges at G-Tech, they could own this town if Hunter’s teams are as up-tempo and fun to watch as he would have you believe. Best of luck to you!

All I'm Saying Is....

March 21st, 2011
6:42 pm

Oh and one more thing: Bradley please learn how to focus whatever you use as I know you can do better than that ‘photo’ you posted: blurrrrrrrrr city.

OutSTATED

March 21st, 2011
6:45 pm

Welcome Coach!!! Go find a house, work the heck out of those kids and let’s win some games next year. Season ticket holder here, you’ve got a lot of talent on that squad. Point them in the right direction and I think they’ll deliver.

T-Bone

March 21st, 2011
6:54 pm

As a Tech grad, I hope he does well. I think the state needs its teams to do well across the board. I mean, how it is that the state of Virginia has 2 teams in the Dance and neither of them major schools. Georgia has large enough population to have several universities with major programs. Look at North Carolina: UNC, Duke, NC State, WF, UNC-Asheville, UNC-Charlotte, and that’s just basketball.

I hope GSU does well in both Basketball and Football. Good hire.

mon

March 21st, 2011
6:55 pm

good luck to the new coach, that photo needs to be replaced sorry

Jacket76

March 21st, 2011
7:34 pm

T-Bone, Tech grad/fan here too. I’m with you on Ron Hunter doing well at GSU (my dad’s alma mater), I wish the best for all of them. I cheered for UGA on Friday noght because they are a GA team – however… I think it is only going to get better for bball in this state. Fox for UGA is a “diamond in the rough,” he’s only going to get better. As for Tech, I’m a little concerned because there are so many out there looking for coaches and I don’t remember when school’s throughout have been so hungry for bball coaches. Let’s hope DRad has been talking to some Lone Ranger.

Jacket76

March 21st, 2011
7:37 pm

“night” and “schools” we left spelling for all that tech huh.

GsuStudent

March 21st, 2011
7:57 pm

This article is why no one in Atlanta reads the AJC. You guys can’t say one positive thing about Georgia state and sometimes even Georgia Tech. Both are such great schools and in your territory.

Whoever wrote this article is not an asset to the AJC.

Oh and can you please replace the picture?

Bill

March 21st, 2011
8:35 pm

Two words: BOBBY KNIGHT!!!!

Would be a GREAT coach for Georgia Tech.

wxwax

March 21st, 2011
8:37 pm

Nice column, Mark!

Makes me want to watch his team play. I wish him well. Tough job.

RM

March 21st, 2011
8:50 pm

As a GSU alum I want to welcome Coach Hunter. Love the attitude. And I agree with T-Bone, plenty of talent around to succeed.

Montinod

March 21st, 2011
9:02 pm

CRH has a lot of charisma. His style of play is a far different from what we’ve seen at State the last 4 years. This should be refreshing and I hope he succeeds.

5150 UOAD

March 21st, 2011
9:16 pm

Congrats GSU. I hope he is the coach you guys/fans need. Please keep growing your PROGRAMS.

kreedham

March 21st, 2011
9:22 pm

Need one of those old fashioned tourneys at Philips. One night Tech plays Ga State and Georgia plays Georgia Southern and the next night the losers play followed by the winners!

kreedham

March 21st, 2011
9:26 pm

Hope this doesn’t double post.

Old fashioned tournament at Philips. Georgia, Georgia Tech, Georgia State, Georgia Southern. Losers play early game on 2nd night. Of course Georgia and Tech couldn’t play each other 1st game!

win now

March 21st, 2011
9:45 pm

bring back lefty! this no name coach will last 2-3 years.

Might as well throw this name into the GT hat...

March 21st, 2011
9:53 pm

…Larry Brown – who says he wants to return to college coaching – might be the right stop gap for that program for a couple of years while DRad mulls over a fulltime guy…

Ken

March 21st, 2011
9:56 pm

Excuse me, but this team has made the NCAA tourney twice, and even beat Wisconsin to make it to the second round. GSU may not have had a stellar past in hoops, but our history is not without successes.

The one thing this school definitely needs is a new sports arena. The one we have was there when I started at GSU back in 1984, and we’ll never have a consistently winning program without building a quality arena. Even Roswell High has a better hoops court than GSU.

Go Panthers!!

March 21st, 2011
10:02 pm

Well, I’ll give him credit in the sense that he sure does sound excited.

And if he gets us games against Kentucky and Michigan State, AND a game against Tech at Philips???

Well, he certainly sounds like the best promoter we’ve had since Lefty.

Lisa

March 21st, 2011
10:32 pm

You all are getting a wonderful man and coach. We will miss him alot here in Indy. Great family man and a great community guy. Best of luck coach. Thanks for a great run here in Indy.

True Dawg

March 21st, 2011
11:01 pm

he sounds like a great coach and a great guy …As a UGA fan I wish him well at GSU. I never understand all the negative comments by rival in-state fans. Not all in-state talent can go to the same school and I would rather our home town kids go to Tech or GSU than out of state.

GT65

March 21st, 2011
11:47 pm

Congrad to GSU and Coach Hunter. I like your desire and confidence. Get it done!

STATEment

March 21st, 2011
11:51 pm

Welcome Coach! We are thirsty for wins! Help us out! GO STATE!

Not A Hewitt Fan

March 22nd, 2011
1:46 am

he’s a BOOB!

MB

March 22nd, 2011
2:34 am

Good god someone get rid of this Mark Bradley guy. What a bag! How many stabs can you write in an article.

Dawg Consultant

March 22nd, 2011
6:39 am

You know until two days ago I never heard of Ron Hunter and I couldn’t name two teams in the Colonial Athletic Conference. This article highlights what has been a great few days for Georgia State. I think both Tech and Georgia can take a page from how they quickly and agressively got a new coach, and more importantly how that Coach absolutely “won” the press conference, and then laid out an easy to understand blue print for success. His references to an exciting brand of basketball (pressing and shooting threes) has me online trying to find out how I can go take in a couple of GSU games next season.

Good luck Coach.

Dr. Warren

March 22nd, 2011
7:08 am

I may be a doctor, but I don’t get it: “where two basketball tentpoles are mentioned in your school’s name.”

GTT

March 22nd, 2011
7:12 am

Good luck, coach. But, I’ll believe it when I see it. Success seems impossible at Ga. State.

GTT

March 22nd, 2011
7:13 am

I think he’s referring to the I’s Doc?

Ches

March 22nd, 2011
7:26 am

I have known Ron since he was a freshman in high school and I had the honor of coaching him. I can tell you this, you are getting a high quality individual FIRST, and an outstanding coach SECOND. He will make all of you proud both on and off the court. I challenge all of you to try to match his enthusiasm. He will be successful because he knows nothing else. It’s just going to be a little harder to watch his teams play since Ohio is just a tad bit further from Georgia than it is from Indiana.

Buzz Me

March 22nd, 2011
7:55 am

does he realize e took the Georgia State job not the Georgia Tech job!!!!!!!!!!!

GT

March 22nd, 2011
8:42 am

Barnes needs to move over to KSU if that job is still open, take advantage of a new movement of metro ball as opposed to the inner city stuff. Cobb county is rich in players that can pass in the classroom. The man has a great character and was in a helpless situation. GSU like several major city teams should and could be great, but they need that Vegas type personality coaching. They will need to push the NCAA right up to the limits and take the kid living in Atlanta but not suited for Tech or Georgia or the pros. I might have stuck with Barnes, at least the AD could sleep at night.

sluggo

March 22nd, 2011
9:28 am

enough about the walk-up guy already. have you not seen the nice covered escalator they installed to take you right up to the arena?

JSS

March 22nd, 2011
10:55 am

He’s coached in the one of the best small D-1 leagues in America (The Summit) and he knows what it is like to be surrounded by schools with “greater reputations” (IU, Evansville, Butler, Purdue, Indiana State, Ball State, and to a lesser extent Notre Dame) and recruit in that atmosphere.

Ron Hunter’s coaching and recruiting prowess is not the issue. The issue is can State finally take advantage of the opportunity that the void left by Tech and the transition which might occur in Athens if Trey Thompkins leaves. There’s a chance to finally get a real foothold in Atlanta and then work their way out to the rest of the State.

Good luck, it is a real possibility…

462 JC Camp Student Center

March 22nd, 2011
11:07 am

Bradley, did you write this in 5 minutes by simply rehashing all of your old columns about GSU? You’ve got nothing new to say about Georgia State basketball and I’m bored with you.

5150 UOAD

March 22nd, 2011
11:39 am

Hewitt Fan says
No Alt CELTICS for GSU.
Atl Celtics only wear NIKE, not ADIDAS or Under Armor.

Dink

March 22nd, 2011
11:52 am

Good write-up MB, I wish Coach Hunter the best of luck.

Down for the count

March 22nd, 2011
12:13 pm

Ga state will not be winning anything in BB. A commuter school with a terrible arena in a dangerous area of town will not bring any fans to the games. Good players want to play for big time programs, not minor commuter schools.

Ted M

March 22nd, 2011
12:45 pm

Bruce Pearl to the Jackets?

Mickey M

March 22nd, 2011
1:34 pm

GSU a minor commuter school? Do you realize that IUPUI has no on campus living and every student commutes. If Mr. Hunter can get a a basketball program to turn out good student athletes in a situation like that I’m sure he can put GSU on the map. Being a transplanted Hoosier, I’m glad to see someone has finally figured out that there is more to college sports than just football.

English

March 22nd, 2011
2:16 pm

Hunter will be great for GSU. The Panthers need a big personality as their coach and believe CRHunter is perfect for the job. Congratulations CRH!

Go Panthers!

JROLL1

March 22nd, 2011
2:43 pm

“Once you see us play, you’ll come back,” Hunter told the gathering. Also this: “The way we play is a little different; I’ve never ever had a shot clock go off. I’ve never sat down [while coaching] in 17 years.”

The Hunter Method is to press and run. “Our shots are either three-pointers or dunks,” he said
THIS ALL I HAD TO HEAR COACH! NOW GO GET SOME GEORGIA BOYZ TO PLAY YOUR SYSTER…SHOULD BE FUN!

JROLL1

March 22nd, 2011
2:44 pm

SYSTEM….SORRY.

English

March 22nd, 2011
3:03 pm

@ JROLL1, those quotes sound exciting. Looks like GSU basketball will be a great brand of basketball to watch again. Us diehards out there will welcome the fresh air and will love the up tempo game.

kirkinga

March 22nd, 2011
3:07 pm

Lefty proved that it is not impossible to win at Georgia State. It may be difficult, but the right coach can certainly build a program.

Both Coach Curry and Coach Hunter have the same mission: to build a solid foundation successful programs that generate revenue for better facilities and that can compete for the best coaching and playing talent.

Mark Bradley`s Booster

March 22nd, 2011
3:14 pm

Mark: I am another who thought Lefty did a good job a Georgia State. I do not recall his overall record but he did upgrade the program.

Delta Stewardess

March 22nd, 2011
3:21 pm

Why gid they give the new coach a pair of Adidas running shoes? Is that a statement on his job.

Reality Check

March 22nd, 2011
3:25 pm

Ga. State should abolish athletics. Even if they win they will be lucky to geet 1,000 fans to come to that dump in downtown Atlanta at night. GSU should drop down to D III and play in that league.

Basketball State

March 22nd, 2011
3:33 pm

[...] at Georgia State University, President Mark P. Becker …Hunter hired at Georgia State UPI.comGeorgia State's new coach: Ron Hunter, dreamer of dreams Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)Ron Hunter new coach at Ga. State [...]