In 2019, Ron Hunter left his post as head men’s basketball coach at Georgia State to take the same position at Tulane. He spent eight seasons in Atlanta and led the Panthers to three NCAA Tournament appearances and one Big Dance victory.
Well before the drama unfolded that convinced Hunter it was time to move on, roughly one decade back in 2011, Georgia State was in need of a coach. The Panthers fired Rod Barnes in the middle of his fourth season, another lackluster campaign, and went on the prowl for their next boss.
The program looked toward Ron Hunter, who had served as head coach at IUPUI for the previous 17 seasons, including when the team was still NAIA in the mid-1990s. He took the Jaguars to one NCAA Tournament in 2003 and won the Summit League once in 2006. His teams finished in the top four of the Summit League each year from 2002-03 until he left following the 2010-11 season. He left as the program’s winningest coach, both in number of victories and winning percentage, and was named Summit League Coach of the Year in 2003 and 2006.
We’re nearly 10 years removed from the hire, and we know how well Hunter’s time at Georgia State went. We can now look back and remember how the news was taken originally as we enter the Nothing But Nylon time machine.
Reactions to Georgia State Hiring Ron Hunter
“After careful evaluation, we have made the decision to seek new leadership for our men’s basketball program. The win-loss record simply does not reflect where we want to be for Georgia State men’s basketball. We felt it was in the best interest of the program to make this change now and begin moving forward immediately. I thank Coach Barnes for his service to Georgia State and our student-athletes and wish him success in his future endeavors.” – Cheryl Levick, Georgia State Athletic Director
“Ron Hunter is a proven coach and recruiter who knows what it takes to build a winning program. He brings a tremendous amount of energy and passion, and his teams play an aggressive, up-tempo style that is both entertaining and effective. And his efforts off the court and in the community are truly remarkable. We are delighted to welcome Ron Hunter to the Georgia State family as our men’s basketball coach.” – Levick
“While leading IUPUI to 25 or more wins in two of the last four seasons, Hunter has partnered with Samaritan’s Feet, and 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 …
Hunter has earned 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.” – Georgia State Athletics press release
“Hunter has coached barefoot for one game in each of the past three seasons to support Samaritan’s Feet.
‘Georgia State said they would support me and that made a big difference,’ Hunter said.” – Katz
“Hunter told ESPN.com’s (sic) on Sunday that the Colonial Athletic Association’s recent strong showing clinched his decision. VCU is in the Sweet 16 and the CAA received three bids to this year’s NCAA tournament. George Mason beat Villanova in the second round before losing to Ohio State on Sunday, while Old Dominion lost at the buzzer to Butler in the second round.
‘I think this can be a great situation for me and the league is really strong,’ Hunter said.” – Andy Katz, ESPN
“Ron is one of the class individuals in the sport. Georgia State hit a home run with Ron Hunter. His unbridled enthusiasm for the job and, just as importantly, his passion for a tremendous cause will make him an instant hit in Atlanta and in the CAA.” – Katz
“Ron Hunter left IUPUI after 17 seasons to take over at Georgia State, a men’s basketball program that has struggled through most of its existence. …
Hunter is taking on a major rebuilding job at Georgia State, a program that struggles to get noticed on its own campus. Other than a brief flurry of success and notoriety under Lefty Driesell, the Panthers have produced only a handful of winning seasons.
This season, they averaged less than 1,000 fans per home game.” – The Associated Press
Hunter has done a solid job at IUPUI in the Summit League and is better known for his humanitarianism work with Samaritans feet. He’s a good coach and can do wonderful things. But as a hire, one can’t help to think Georgia St. could have gone another route. The CAA got a ton of press this tournament. And when a guy like john Calipari talks about your schools job opening, saying it could be a top program, it’s worth swinging for the fences a bit in your coach hire. Instead, GA State was very conservative, hiring a solid head coach with leadership experience. But had GA State hired a guy like (Florida State assistant Andy) Ensfield, someone familiar with the region coming from an ACC program on the rise, the grade might have been higher as there would be more energy brought in.” – Matt Peloquin, CollegeSportsInfo.com
“I would characterize Ron Hunter as a builder with great enthusiasm. He took the IUPUI program and guided it through amazing growth, from obscurity to respectability with hard work and an upbeat approach. That was not an easy task. He worked around an environment with the Indiana, Purdue, Notre Dame and Butler basketball programs, so he was operating around a lot of tall trees at IUPUI. That will make him a great fit at Georgia State because of the similar characteristics of competition for that program. Ron’s whole body of work is remarkable. Look how fast he took IUPUI to the NCAA Tournament. That is nothing short of being a Michelangelo.” – Floyd Keith, Executive Director of the Black Coaches Association
“Ron Hunter is really special. Georgia State is to be congratulated on a great hire. He had tremendous success at IUPUI, and his compassion and humanitarian side is so remarkable. Coach Hunter is going to bring something that will elevate Georgia State University in the consciousness of Atlanta. The community of Atlanta and the University will be taken with him and with the type of basketball program he will build.” – Jim Haney, NABC Executive Director