Monday, February 3, 2014
A conversation with Ron Hunter
By Myron Medcalf
With a 101-91 overtime victory over Texas-Arlington on Saturday, coach Ron Hunter's Georgia State squad established a school record with its 12th consecutive victory. Devonta White, whose 3-pointer at the end of regulation sent the game into overtime, scored 30 points, coach's son R.J. Hunter dropped 31 and Kentucky transfer Ryan Harrow scored 22. The game was the culmination of a bizarre week for Hunter’s program. The Panthers had to postpone last week’s scheduled matchup against South Alabama because of a winter storm that disrupted life in Atlanta and also affected the Georgia State basketball team. Hunter recently spoke with ESPN.com about his squad’s first season in the Sun Belt, the streak and the recent chaos in his city.
Georgia State head coach Ron Hunter has the Panthers on a 12-game winning streak and in first place in the Sun Belt.
So how does it feel to set a school record for consecutive wins?
Hunter: We like it, but that was never one of our goals. Our goal was to win this league and get ourselves into the NCAA tournament. This just happens to come with it. We haven’t talked much about it. It’s great for our school, though. Georgia State hasn’t had a lot of things to cheer about over the last 10 to 15 years. We’re just happy that people are excited about basketball again. It’s great for the school. But for us as a team, we don’t talk much about it. We’re more concerned about trying to win this league.
After adding Harrow, how did you all build chemistry so early?
Hunter: It wasn’t early. It took us a while to kind of figure it out. We lost two games early we felt like we should’ve won. We had guys playing out of position a little bit. ... We had to figure some things out. I had to change some things. They had to. Once we got it figured out, it’s been great. What helps is that they’re all great kids. Ryan Harrow could have messed everything up. We were gonna be pretty good anyway. And he really came in and he just really, really fit in. He didn’t try to [boast], "I played at Kentucky" or "I was a [high school] All-American." He never used any of that. His buy-in was the key.
How difficult was this past week with the storm and postponed game?
Hunter: It was crazy because we couldn’t practice. The coaches couldn’t. The players were already on campus. So for two days, they practiced. I let [R.J. Hunter] and [White] run practice. We were so off for the first half of this game [on Saturday]. My son could never coach for me, ever, because we were so bad. (Laughing) I sent them the practice plan. He said, "Dad, I got it. We’re going to run through this." I don’t know what they did in our absence, but it sure didn’t work. We were off for the first half.
Where were you when the team was practicing?
Hunter: I was home. I couldn’t get in. None of my assistants could make it into downtown. My players all live on campus, so they were able to do it. We couldn’t get in. I was so nervous, so I called and said, "Hey, what are we doing?" They told me [they] were working on defense. But I don’t think that’s what [they] were working on. We gave up 91 points the other night. We scored 101. I know what [they] were working on.
So it sounds as though R.J. has already ruined his chance to become your assistant one day?
Hunter:(Laughing) Yeah, I told him he’s not going into the family business. He’d better make some money somewhere else.
How can you all maintain this momentum?
Hunter: One of the things we keep talking about is we don’t want to look too far into the future. I know what’s happened in this league in the past, where the winner of this league has not gone to the [NCAA] tournament. That’s something we’re very mindful about. We’re just now playing our best basketball. We’re peaking at the right time.