Clipboard conversations: Ron Hunter, new Georgia State head coach

11 May

Ron Hunter is the new head man at Georgia State.

Georgia State hired IUPUI coach Ron Hunter to take over the program from Rob Barnes. Hunter was a bit of a surprise hire for the Panthers. He is a long time coach in the Midwest and doesn’t have any ties to the South. The National Hoops Report caught up with him for this week’s edition of Clipboard Conversations.

NATIONAL HOOPS REPORT: You spent 17 years at IUPUI. Being there that long what made you decide that now was the time to pack up and start a new job?

RON HUNTER: “I had a couple of reasons. One, I wanted to go somewhere a lot like where I was at but had resources and support. I don’t think you can win without those two things. I was able to find that. The other part of it was my son. My son is pretty good player at Pike High School in Indianapolis. I really want an opportunity to coach him, not that he wouldn’t have gone to IUPUI. I wanted to make sure I gave him another opportunity if he did want to play for his dad to play in a conference where he could really thrive in and play well. With VCU, George Mason, Old Dominion and the other teams in our conference that have done well, (the Georgia State job) became attractive. Being able to sell that I’m coaching at the best non BCS conference is something that excites me and I truly believe that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to make a move as well as being able to give my son a better opportunity also.”

NHR: There seems to be a train of thought that Georgia State is the outsider school in the CAA given their geographic location in comparison to other teams in the league. Was there any thought to that end when you were looking at this job?

HUNTER: “I don’t really buy into that. I’ve been good friends with Rod Barnes for a long time. I truly believe that the culture needs to change here. There has been a culture of losing here for too long. I think it’s a culture of settling for so long. When you keep to that and you start giving yourself excuses why you can’t win, you see programs buy into that. You see programs believe the excuses. If the coaches start to believe that, what do you expect the players to believe when they hear stuff like that? The first thing that has to change here is the culture. ‘We don’t have this or we don’t have that.’ Or ‘our locker rooms aren’t like VCU’s.’ You have to stop that. You have to look at the positive things that you’ve got. I was working at an institution that was only seats 1,200 people. There were no locker rooms. I had the worst recruiting budget in the league. If all of the sudden I started worrying about all of the things I didn’t have, how in the world was I going to succeed? If we take the positives that we have at Georgia State, then we turn those positives into wins. We’re not going to worry about what we don’t have because we can’t control these things.”

NHR: April is closed to coaches and it has been for the last three years in terms of recruiting weekend grassroots events. As someone that is starting to build your own culture, with the April closed, does that slow things down for you for getting started?

HUNTER: “It hurts us not having April. I’m on the board of directors of the NABC and I sit on several NCAA boards. Matter of fact, I’m going to Indianapolis (on Wednesday) to meet with the basketball committee where will talk about this. When I was at IUPUI, I didn’t think April was that big. But now that I’m at a new job and April is off limits, I’m realizing that it is essential to new coaches to have April. Most of the coaches that are hired are hired in March or early April. Not being able to get a start on 2012 recruiting or to finish recruiting is just a huge liability. I think we need to cut back in July and spend more time in April. I am actually one of the guys that voted against recruiting in April but I completely changed my mind with that. I know we will get April back. There are some people working really hard on that. I am a big believer that we have to have it. We don’t necessarily have to have it for the new coaches we need it because look at the number of transfers that are out there. We don’t have enough contact with the student athletes. AAU people, runners, agents, the wrong people have their hands on these kids right now. The people that should have their hands on the kids are college coaches and we don’t.”

NHR: What ultimately changed your opinion on April then? Was it a matter of job change? Was a matter of looking at the transfer list? What exactly was it?

HUNTER: “It was a little bit of both. Having a new job has given me a new outlook more than anything else. I looked the other day and I couldn’t believe the number of transfers that we have in college basketball. Five years ago, APR and all of these other things were supposed to limit that and cut that number down. That number is actually even doubled. I think we weren’t dealing with the right issues. The issues is that we have to have more contact with the kids. College coaches need more access. My son is a high school basketball player and his AAU coach has more access to him than a college coach can have. That’s wrong. Even the parents, and most parents don’t have an idea on the entire process, don’t have the same kind of access as their AAU coach. I’m not saying AAU coaches are wrong either. I’m saying that we are in the training business and yet we aren’t allowed to be the ones who have access and do our jobs. That’s why our game is a little messed up right now.”

NHR: As a former resident of Atlanta, I’m very aware of what’s in the backyard there for Georgia State. Do you have a recruiting philosophy for Georgia State?

RH: “I will say this. I worked three urban institutions. That’s the only three places I’ve worked at – Wisconsin-Milwaukee, IUPUI and now Georgia State. You can not survive at urban without making a living in your own city. Period. Can’t be done. If you go all the way back to what I call the Godfather of urban institutions was UAB when Murray Bartow was there. He started it all. He from Division II to Division I and had success because he was all about local kids. You have got to do that. We did that at IUPUI with George Hill and all of those guys. Here in Atlanta, we’ve got to recruit Atlanta. The great part about Georgia State is this: if you look around Atlanta, I can’t tell you the next really good mid-major program around Atlanta. We’re not going to recruit ACC kids and against Georgia Tech and the like. When I look around, what other mid-major program do you have? When I was at IUPUI, I had Butler down the street. I had Ball State the street. I had Evansville down the street. I had Miami of Ohio down the street. There were so many good mid-major programs around us that it was hard to get good mid-major players. Here you have great players everywhere and not all of them can play in the ACC or SEC. Now that means we should be the ones to go and put a lid on them.”

NHR: I do find it funny that you have yourself, Lewis Preston at Kennesaw State and Brian Gregory at Georgia Tech – all guys coming in from the Midwest – now all in the Atlanta area. Have the three of you met up for lunch at Fat Matt’s Rib Shack or even that dive The Varsity to figure out how to figure out life in Atlanta?

RH: I ran into Brian out recruiting but I haven’t talked to Lewis yet. I’m sure we will cross paths at the airport or at the gym or somewhere…I’d love for all of us to play against each other. I’m sure we can work out a round robin. I think it would be great for the city. Its something that I’d want to push. Its something that would draw college basketball in this city.

NHR: I’ll leave this with you coach as a challenge. Whoever can come up with the best authentic Southern drawl will be the winner of an all expenses paid dinner to Fat Matt’s Rib Shack next time the National Hoops Report comes through Atlanta.

RH: “I’m already using the word y’all.”

5 Responses to “Clipboard conversations: Ron Hunter, new Georgia State head coach”

  1. Corey Schmidt May 11, 2011 at 8:23 am #

    Great read. Really enjoy the focus on not as high-profile coaching hires. As a Summit League enthusiast, Hunter was always a joy to watch during games and to hear talk after them. I will miss that about him. But it seems like he has a great opportunity to do some new things at Georgia State.


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