Already setting Georgia State records, Hunter dreams bigger

Ron Hunter reacts placidly to the defeat of William & Mary. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Ron Hunter reacts placidly to the defeat of William & Mary. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Nine months on the job, Ron Hunter has already done something only one other Georgia State basketball coach ever did: He has won eight consecutive games, matching the record established by Lefty Driesell’s Panthers on their run to Round 2 of the 2001 NCAA tournament. Here, however, comes a disclaimer:

Not one of the eight teams the Panthers have beaten holds a winning record, and if you’ve ever wondered how an  8-3 team can have an RPI of 287, here’s your answer. According to ESPN Insider’s numbers, Georgia State has played the worst schedule among the 345 Division I teams. And here, bang on cue, came Hunter’s rebuttal.

“First of all, I didn’t make the schedule, but I’d rather play the Sisters of Poor 27 times and be 27-0. It’s more about winning than RPI. If my mother brought her team down here, I’d want to beat her — and I love my mother.”

And here Hunter, who in addition to being smart and energetic and funny as all get-out is alarmingly media-savvy, nodded to his visitor and said: “If we’d been 5-5 with a good RPI, you wouldn’t be sitting here.”

Guilty as charged. As we know, Georgia State has a hard time getting noticed in the Atlanta market, but eight wins on the trot — the Panthers can establish a new school standard Thursday by beating Georgia Southern here — will catch the eye. Especially at a place that has known eight winning seasons in its 48 years of playing.

“I’ve never been in a place where expectations were so low and the passion and the spirit were so down. It took three months just to get my kids to smile.”

Some coaches might find that daunting. Hunter doesn’t do daunted. He has big plans for the program with the walk-up gym based on the Concrete Campus. How big? Here goes.

“We’re trying to become Atlanta’s team. I’m from Indianapolis [his previous stop was IUPUI] and I saw how Butler, a mid-major, dominated that city. I want us to be so you can’t get a ticket … I think we’re good enough to win our league [the estimable Colonial Athletic Association], but I don’t want to be just good. I want to be great.

“I’m not going to apologize for wanting to win. When I took this job, they didn’t give me a little  sign that said, ‘You can’t win this year’ … I want us to embrace this streak and this attention … My biggest problem is how to handle success, especially with a team that’s never won, and develop a swagger that isn’t cockiness.”

One way to impart the message might be to break a bone. Hunter did that, slamming a metal chair in disgust and fracturing his index finger. “I’m the only coach in the country who’d won six straight and broke his finger in practice.”

Backing up a bit: Does Hunter really believe his team can win a conference that has recently dispatched two members [George Mason and VCU] to the Final Four? “I do. Things have to go well, but that thing about conference play being different? The ball goes in the basket and they still give you two or three points. It’s still basketball. And nobody’s going to play harder than us.”

Georgia State being tabbed — not by the media but by the league coaches — to finish 11th in the 12-team CAA was mere grist for Hunter’s motivational mill. “We were picked last [or thereabouts] by the coaches, and we didn’t have a player on the all-conference team. That puts a chip on my shoulder. Before we played [CAA opponent] William & Mary, I told our kids, ‘Their coach said we were the worst team in the league.’ ”

Actually, there’s no evidence that Tony Shaver, who coaches the Tribe, said any such thing, but why stand in the way of a good goad? (For the record, GSU beat William & Mary 66-34.) Hunter is peddling hope at a program that has rarely known any, and he’s a good enough coach that we should take heed. “Self-imposed limitations are the worst,” he says. “You say you want to get a C, and you’ll get a C. Low expectations mean low results.”

Is Hunter happy to be 8-3? Nope. “I thought we’d be 10-1.” And is he worried that his team’s less-than-stellar schedule will catch up to it? “I hope Georgia State is on the bubble on Selection Sunday and people are saying, ‘They should have played a tougher schedule.’ I’d love that.”

If Georgia State is being discussed in any way on Selection Sunday, Ron Hunter will have lent RPI a new meaning — he’ll have become a Really Prophetic Individual.

By Mark Bradley

84 comments Add your comment

ClemsonBrad

December 21st, 2011
4:24 pm

a first for Clemson for the new year!!

Mark Bradley

December 21st, 2011
4:26 pm

Kudos, ClemsonBrad. Although technically it’s still 2011.

Billy Gunn

December 21st, 2011
4:38 pm

FIU, Rhode Island, William and Mary, McNeese St, Liberty, Utah Valley

Not world beaters by any means, but GSU has blown the doors off these guys. Looking forward to the GSU/GS match up on Thursday and setting a new record for GSU hoops.

Mark Bradley

December 21st, 2011
4:39 pm

I had never heard of Utah Valley, in all candor. It’s in Orem, FYI.

Billy Gunn

December 21st, 2011
4:42 pm

Return game from BracketBuster last season, this time in Orem. They’re nothing to write home about, but they were 6-0 at home beforehand.

G-STATE-55

December 21st, 2011
4:51 pm

Just curious Mark, when is the last time you ever stepped foot inside the Sports Arena? Always the man to throw punches while trying to compliment someone:

http://blogs.ajc.com/mark-bradley-blog/2011/12/21/2011-college-heat-check-georgia-got-hot-tech-got-warm/

I dare you to come to a game. But, I bet you are aren’t up to it. Better yet, you can sit by me (paid ticket) all you have to do is show up. I and the Panther Nation dare you. Are you man enough?

Itsmeagain

December 21st, 2011
4:56 pm

You won’t, you won’t!

Herschel Talker

December 21st, 2011
4:57 pm

G-STATE-55:

Get a life.

HT

G-STATE-55

December 21st, 2011
5:14 pm

HT,

Nice one. “Get a life”……that is so 1980.

-55

GT Fan

December 21st, 2011
5:36 pm

Wait…GSU has a basketball team? Who knew….

Hammer22

December 21st, 2011
5:37 pm

Mark Bradley,

Thanks for the article about GSU. You should come to a game for a chance.

Sluggo

December 21st, 2011
5:47 pm

Although we’ve had a less than stellar schedule, we have dismantled a few teams with wins over CAA foes. If it were so easy, George Mason and Hofstra would have taken down FIU and Rhode Island respectively. Bottom line is, last year’s team, playing this exact same schedule, would not be vying to break the school’s consecutive wins mark. This is all contributed to a better coaching philosophy (short bench, not snatching players out after bad plays, and better tempo).

They all come highly regarded, but coach Hunter has actually surpassed my expectations so far. If we can go 11 – 7 or 10 – 8 in conference play, I’d be thrilled!

Sluggo

December 21st, 2011
5:49 pm

And Mark, we’ve only played these guys three consecutive years. Guess you guys really don’t pay attention to GSU, but thanks for the coverage nonetheless.

Panama

December 21st, 2011
6:05 pm

25 Hours until the #beatdownofgasouthern

TommyP

December 21st, 2011
7:14 pm

Mark: Great article about a team I probably never would’ve read about normally. I live in TN but would go to a game if I lived in Atlanta.

That’s a man a city can rally around.

GStateBen

December 21st, 2011
7:45 pm

Thanks for the coverage Mark. You and your AJC brethren are starting to realize that CRH is the best coach since Lefty. Hunter gets it. He coached at a low major school who was more known for their pool than their basketball team.

Joe Tess Fish House

December 21st, 2011
7:47 pm

Flacons blue a dradft pic on Perrier Jerry

glsjunior

December 21st, 2011
7:54 pm

Once the class of 2012 comes in we are going to be sick!

GState

December 21st, 2011
8:03 pm

GState fans, flood the page with comments! Comments and page views are the only way Mark Bradley will ever go to a GSU game. It’s a business for them! Woot

GSUUSOCCER

December 21st, 2011
8:16 pm

Mark, Thanks for the article and bringing some attention to our great, new GSU coach! This guy is probably the most entertaining interview you can get from any basketball coach in the state of Georgia.

We exactly sure how good our GSU Panthers really are, but after the first week of January we will definitely know. Mark, how about coming to the Samaritan’s Feet benefit game to see what Ron Hunter is really all about!

Bariblue

December 21st, 2011
8:42 pm

Thank you Mr. Bradley for a great write up! Coach Hunter and team, know that we are PROUD of you all! Keep up the momentum and never lose hope! It’s time to change perceptions in this city…

GSYou

December 21st, 2011
8:43 pm

The battle to determine the real GSU. Which by the way is located in Atlanta.

RomeDawg

December 21st, 2011
9:07 pm

It would seem to me, that State is a sleeping giant. With all of the basketball talent in Atlanta and all of Georgia for that matter, if the right coach (Hunter), with the right philosophy could really do something special.

Hunter seems really likable and I wish him the best of luck. I plan on making a trip for my 1st Georgia State game soon.

Panthers

December 21st, 2011
9:17 pm

In 2 years we could be the dominant program in the state

blazerdawg

December 21st, 2011
9:26 pm

You really should get over to Decatur Street, MB. It is a cool gym when it is packed, and on Thursday night it will be rockin.

Jtb

December 21st, 2011
10:00 pm

Great to see you write a piece about State. Can’t wait to see the real GSU enter conference play.

GSUBB

December 21st, 2011
10:31 pm

Mark, thanks for GSU Basketball article, it great despite you a few underhanded remarks.

I hope you can make it out on Thursday.

@RomeDawg would love to have you to a game. I agree, we are a sleeping giant. As you may remember back when Lefty had the team rolling we beat the Dawgs a couple of times.

Dubious

December 21st, 2011
10:56 pm

Good to see Ga State off to a solid start. I have never been to a Panther game but am trying to figure a way to get to one. Happy Holidays to all.

JSS

December 21st, 2011
11:10 pm

Love Ga State, and I love hearing about any school in this state not named UGA or Tech for a change!!! Good luck to them in the New Year!!!

English

December 21st, 2011
11:21 pm

Let’s be honest. The state of Georgia basketball is up in the air with our new coaches. Coach Fox has done well so far but still very new to the state. He had great success at Nevada and I’m pretty sure 99% of UGA nation doesn’t know how good of a coach they’ve got. Coach Gregory is another great hire for GT coming from Dayton. He’ll do well as he prioritizes on academics while succeeding on the court. Coach Hunter is the perfect hire for GSU. His excitement off the court as well as on it will propel GSU to success. The challenge between these 3 will be who gets their footing first in the rich recruiting soil of Atlanta/Georgia. So Hunter wants to become Atlanta’s team? Game on! I like our chances but really feel it would come between Coach Hunter and Coach Gregory.
Since 2002 (Last 10 Seasons) Final Four Conferences have been represented by
ACC 7 Teams
SEC 4 Teams
CAA 2 Teams
* Keep in mind, the ACC/SEC are a numerous bid league. The CAA is a great conference and puts quality products on the floor and fields.

Mutual respect has to be given to the conferences that Georgia’s basketball programs play in. So, let’s see who wins the recruiting battle of Atlanta. Game on!
Go State!

itsmeagain

December 22nd, 2011
12:28 am

I believe someone said when Hunter was hired that it seemed impossible to win at GSU. Well, Hunter is here and he is doing it. Right now he’s proving we can win, and we can win big. In the future we’ll start to tackle some harder teams, but right now he’s not just rebuilding the program, he’s giving it a reputation.

tjhook

December 22nd, 2011
1:13 am

Maybe if my beloved Mercer Bears will get a coach’s interview if we beat Georgia Tech tomorrow

tjhook

December 22nd, 2011
1:25 am

If Mercer beats Ga. Tech, maybe my coach will get an interview. Sorry about earlier post-it’s late.

GSU_2012

December 22nd, 2011
1:57 am

thanks for the write up. It is really exciting to see how well the team is playing.

GStateDrew

December 22nd, 2011
2:17 am

I predict a 20+ point victory vs the fake GSU. I haven’t been excited for Georgia State basketball in a long time.

Greyshark

December 22nd, 2011
2:48 am

Go Coach Hunter! I am ready to be a GSU fan. Tear it up!

sluggo

December 22nd, 2011
7:39 am

Enough about the walk-up gym already. Isn’t every arena and gym a walk-up? How else can you approach it? (Running, skipping, hopping, cartwheels, crawling, etc.) It’s called the Georgia State Sports Arena and they did install a really nice escalator to get you up to the arena level. You do, however, have to walk up to the escalator to step onto it when entering the building. Enjoy the game…

Gordon

December 22nd, 2011
7:56 am

Hunter will beat Paul Hewitt’s George Mason team. They already have buyer’s remorse up there.

Sluggo

December 22nd, 2011
9:05 am

Obviously a name change is in order.

New Arena coming soon

December 22nd, 2011
9:32 am

I have seen pictures of the multi-million dollar basketball arena renovations and it is amazing. Ga State basketball is about to get a huge facility make over to coincide with success on the court. Ga State football needs some work but should get better, basketball has tied a record, even the soccer team had a great year making it to the CAA semifinals and the NCAA Tournament. Even better was going to the Master’s in 2006 and surprisingly getting to watch Ga State golfer Dave Womack playing as an amateur. Although he never made the cut it was awesome to see a Ga State golfer compete with the best in the world. I don’t really care about any negative criticism. If you play sports criticism is part of the game, but I am absolutely speechless on how far State athletics have come since I graduated. To the haters….. actions and progress speak so loud that I can’t hear a word you say. Like a previous poster said I chose state for academics over entertainment. The choice was the correct one for my career, but now I get the entertainment as well. These are truly good times. Go State!!!!!!!!!!!

G-STATE-55

December 22nd, 2011
10:03 am

New Arena,

Man you must be a lucky guy! Our Athletics Department has done a great job keeping those plans under lock and safe to the everyday public. It must be some secret! God forbid anyone lay their hands on these. As a friend told me, “Other than the secret recipe for Coca-Cola, our facilities plans are the most secretive plans in all of Atlanta”.

Panther08

December 22nd, 2011
10:18 am

Coach Hunter wants to schedule UGA and GaTech!!!! LET’S GO! #GoPanthers

31-17

December 22nd, 2011
10:21 am

It must be a slow day in sports because who cares about Georgia State and their basketball program?

Dawgmatic

December 22nd, 2011
10:21 am

Glad you guys are getting it together on the hardwood. Give Ol’ Tech a run for its money, and we’ll continue to make them irrelevant on the gridiron. I see your pals from Ga. Southern are filling in the little brother role pretty well, just like Tech does for us. It’s just part of being the big brother in the relationship, you’ll get used to it.

Georgia STATE of Mind

December 22nd, 2011
10:25 am

Apparently, “31-17″ cares enough to post here. Pretty funny, actually!

Georgia STATE of Mind

December 22nd, 2011
10:28 am

But it’s not a slow enough news day to even mention Georgia Southern. Ouch!

jtb

December 22nd, 2011
10:59 am

G-STATE-55,
You’ve probably already seen these, but here are two links with sketches for a new basketball arena and baseball and softball fields.

http://www.panthertalk.com/georgia-state-athletics-eyes-future-with-upgraded-facilities-part-1/

http://www.panthertalk.com/georgia-state-athletics-eyes-future-with-upgraded-facilities-part-2/

AGTFan

December 22nd, 2011
11:04 am

Sounds like the kind of coach I like.

spider

December 22nd, 2011
11:59 am

i didnt know about a new arena, when and where is this happening?

spider

December 22nd, 2011
12:02 pm

we need more articles about ga st, kenn st, etc. div 1 athletics has almost made me as sick as pro sports and i gave up on pro sports a couple of decades ago.