Ron Hunter restored the Georgia State program to national prominence in just his first year and has won 37 games in two seasons after taking over as head coach of the Panthers before the 2011-12 season. In just his first year, Georgia State won 22 games, the second most in school history, advancing to the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, the Panthers fourth-ever postseason appearance.
Hunter has won 311 games in 19 seasons, but the accomplishments made by the 2011-12 team might be the most special. After being named head coach on March, 21, 2011, he built a squad that finished in the top 20 in the nation in scoring defense, defensive shooting percentage, steals and blocked shots, as six seniors finished their careers triumpently.
“I will remember my first team at Georgia State for the rest of life,” commented Hunter after the season. “We were able to get a group of seniors to buy-in and it made for a very special season that will not soon be forgotten about.”
Following the record-setting season, Hunter was named Atlanta Tip-off Club Georgia Coach of the Year, while his players earned a record-number of conference and national awards.
In his second year, Hunter led a squad of nine newcomers to 15 wins and saw his son, R.J., earn Kyle Macy Freshman All-America honors, along with a slew of CAA awards. His squad won at some of the toughest places in the CAA, including George Mason and Old Dominion, while knocking off an undefeated Northeastern in Boston.
National notoriety is nothing new for Hunter. While at IUPUI, he was lauded for his humanitarian efforts, partnering with Samaritan’s Feet, an organization that collects shoes for underprivileged children around the world.
He continued that work in Atlanta, coaching the Panthers while barefoot to victory over UNCW in front of the largest crowd in the Sports Arena since 2007.
While leading IUPUI to 25 or more wins in two of his final four seasons, Hunter began to partner with Samaritan’s Feet, an organization that collects shoes for underprivileged children around the world. On Jan. 24, 2008, he coached IUPUI against Oakland in his bare feet to help raise awareness for the cause. By tipoff, Hunter’s efforts had raised more than 100,000 pairs of shoes, and to date, that number has climbed well above 250,000.
During his first season at Georgia State, Hunter led the Panthers to the second round of the CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament, just the fourth time GSU earned a postseason bid. The Panthers opened the tournament at home, another first, hosting a postseason contest and earning an impressive 74-43 victory against Tennessee Tech.
Earlier in the year, Hunter’s squad won 11 straight games, a school-record, earning impressive victories over CAA preseason favorite Drexel and at VCU. The streak included wins of 32, 32 and 31 points.
The Panthers winning ways continued in the CAA Tournament with a record-setting 35-point victory against Hofstra in the first round, the largest margin of victory in CAA Championship history.
One of Hunter’s six seniors, Eric Buckner, became one of the top shot blockers in the country and in just his second season as a Panther, set the school-record for career blocked shots. Both Buckner and fellow senior Jihad Ali earned All-CAA honors while Ali was recognized with the prestigious Dean Ehlers Leadership Award. Buckner later earned Georgia Men’s College Player of the Year honors by the Atlanta Tip-off Club.
Ali and fellow senior James Fields earned CAA All-Academic Team honors while setting the record for the top two games played in a career: Ali with 126, Fields with 124.
Hunter’s resume includes numerous national honors including an NABC Guardians of the Game Pillar Award for Service, the 2009 Giant Steps Award from the National Consortium for Academics and Sport (NCAS), and a Minority Achievement Award from the Center for Leadership Development (CLD).
He was one of seven head coaches who served on the Division I Basketball Academic Enhancement Group, as appointed by late NCAA President Myles Brand, and he is a member of the National Basketball Coaches Association (NABC) Board of Directors.
In his 17 seasons at IUPUI, Hunter guided the program through its transition from the NAIA and Division II level into NCAA Division I and the Summit League. He is the school’s winningest coach, both in number of victories and winning percentage, and he led IUPUI to its only appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 2003 in just the school’s third season as a full-fledged Division I program.
His program produced George Hill, the 2008 Summit League Player of the Year who was drafted in the first round of the 2008 NBA Draft (26th selection) by the San Antonio Spurs.
Hill was the standout for Hunter’s 2007-08 IUPUI squad that won a school-record 26 games. The Jaguars led the nation in three-point field goal percentage that year while also ranking in the top five in both field goal percentage and free throw percentage.
In 2009-10, Hunter’s Jaguars won 25 games, including the first post-season victory in school history. IUPUI, the Summit League runner-up, earned a berth in the College Basketball Invitational, where the Jaguars defeated Hofstra in the first round before falling to Princeton in double overtime. IUPUI ranked second in the nation in field goal percentage in 2009-10.
Hunter’s 2010-11 team earned third place in the conference with a 12-6 mark in conference play, along with an overall record of 19-14, including victories over Big East member USF (69-68) and Summit League champion Oakland (100-88). The Jaguars suffered a 75-64 loss at NCAA No. 1 seed Ohio State and a 56-54 loss to No. 2 seed San Diego State.
Named Summit League Coach of the Year in 2003 and 2006, Hunter led IUPUI to the conference championship game five times from 2002-10, including the 2003 title game victory over top-seeded Valparaiso. Since 2003, the Jaguars have never finished lower than fourth in the league standings, including runnerup finishes in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008 and 2010.
Sixteen of Hunter’s Jaguars received first or second-team all-conference accolades, including two Player of the Year honorees in Hill (2008) and Odell Bradley (2004) as well as Defensive Player of the Year Matt Crenshaw (2004). Another 10 IUPUI players were recognized on the league’s All-Newcomer team, including Newcomer of the Year winners Austin Montgomery (2007) and Robert Glenn (2009).
Hunter’s teams have shown the ability to knock off top competition on the road, recording victories at Georgia Tech (2001-02), at Northwestern (2002-03) and at Seton Hall (2008-09).
Hunter arrived at IUPUI as head coach in 1994-95 and led the then-NAIA program to a winning record at 16-13 in his first season. His second IUPUI squad posted a 22-7 mark in NCAA Division II, at the time the highest single-season winning percentage in school history.
Winning records followed the next two seasons, and Carlos Knox became a three-time All-American at the Division II level. The program began its transition to Division I and the Summit League in 1998-99.
Hunter’s coaching career began in 1987, when he served as an assistant at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. During his six seasons at Milwaukee, the school moved from NAIA to NCAA Division II status and eventually to Division I. During Hunter’s stint, Wisconsin-Milwaukee amassed an overall record of 111-59, including a 23-4 mark in 1992-93.
Prior to his arrival at IUPUI, Hunter spent one year as the top assistant coach at his alma mater, Miami (Ohio), under current Arizona State head coach Herb Sendek. During that season, the Redhawks were 19-10, finishing second in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) and making an appearance in the postseason National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
Hunter, 49, earned his bachelor’s degree in education at Miami in 1986 and added a master’s in 1987. He was a standout player on strong Miami teams of the mid-1980s, along with high school and college teammate Ron Harper, who went on to a long NBA career. The Redhawks were 81-30 during Hunter’s four-year career and earned three consecutive NCAA Tournament berths while winning two MAC championships.
Hunter and his wife, Amy, have two children, Jasmine (24) and R.J. (19), who will be a sophomore on the team this upcoming season.