The WCU men's basketball team opened up the 2012-13 season officially with its first practice of the season in the Ramsey Center, Friday evening.
Larry Hunter, one of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) leaders in coaching victories, was named Western Carolina University's 17th head men's basketball coach all time on April 29, 2005. His impact was felt immediately. Known for his offensive prowess, Hunter brought an up-tempo offense to Cullowhee and the Catamounts responded by making a school-record 221 3-pointers, while tying or setting the single-game school record for 3-pointers made in a game on six occasions. WCU again surpassed the school benchmark for treys with 226 made 3-pointers in 2007-08.
Hunter, whose teams posted winning records in 26 of his 31 seasons as a head coach, entered the 2011-12 season boasting an overall record of 599-324 -- the 12th winningest active coach in the country. On Nov. 15, 2011, Hunter claimed his 600th career victory.
During his time as a head coach, Hunter has made 11 overall NCAA tournament appearances, while making seven as an assistant coach.
Hunter has guided Western Carolina to just its second and third Southern Conference divisional titles, sharing both the 2008-09 and 2010-11 crowns with Chattanooga. He also led the Catamounts in setting a Ramsey Center record with 14 home wins in 2009-10.
Hunter has also recruited and coached both the 2008-09 SoCon Freshman of the Year in Harouna Mutombo - WCU's first rookie of the year since Jarvis Hayes in 2000 and only the fourth Catamount all-time to garner the award - and Trey Sumler in 2010-11.
Hunter also recruited and coached WCU's all-time leader in steals, Brigham Waginger, who garnered SoCon Defensive co-Player of the Year plaudits in 2009-10. A year later, a Hunter recruit in Richie Gordon again earned top defensive player honors.
While his first year at WCU was just his third losing season as a head coach, posting a 13-17 mark, Hunter's inaugural season with the Catamounts saw many positives. Western Carolina nearly doubled its win total from the previous season. Also, its 7-7 record and third place finish in the SoCon North was its best in the league since posting the same record for the 1996-97 season, while placing second that season. Key wins in his first season included: a win over Bowling Green in the season opener - WCU's first season-opening win over an NCAA Division I team since defeating Georgia Tech to start the 1980-81 season; a win over Chattanooga - snapping an eight-game losing streak to the Mocs; a win at Davidson - snapping Davidson's 19-game home winning streak which was the third longest in the NCAA at the time; and defeating SoCon North Champion Elon late in the season - setting up a battle for a first-round bye at the league tournament.
Western Carolina has rewritten the school record books under Hunter. The Catamounts have set school records for 3-pointers made (274 in 2009-10); attempted (753 in 2009-10) and 3's per game (8.06 in 09-10) in a season, as well as making at least 12, 3-pointers in a game 11 times, including a school-record 17 treys on two different occasions, both during the 2009-10 season.
Hunter came to Western Carolina after four years as an assistant coach at North Carolina State, the final three serving as associate head coach. In his first season at N.C. State (2002), the Wolfpack reached the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) championship game and received their first NCAA Championship bid since 1991. N.C. State would go on to reach at least the ACC Tournament semifinals in each the last three years as well as receiving bids to the NCAA Championship. In 2004, Hunter coached Julius Hodge, who was tabbed ACC Player of the Year and consensus All-America. In 2005, the Wolfpack made an impressive run at season's end and defeated defending NCAA Champion Connecticut to reach the Sweet 16. N.C. State was just one of 21 teams in the nation to play in the NCAA Championship in each of the last four years.
Hunter spent 12 years (1989-2001) as head coach at Ohio University prior to his stint in Raleigh. Five years after taking over the Bobcat basketball program (1993-94), he led Ohio to a 25-8 record and was tabbed the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Coach of the Year, winning both the league's regular season and tournament titles. The following year, the Bobcats won the preseason National Invitation Tournament (NIT), went 24-10 and reached the second round of the postseason NIT. At Ohio, he coached 16 All-MAC performers and four first-team Academic All-MAC selections. Among those standout players were Player of the Year honorees Dave Jamerson (1990), Gary Trent (1993, `94 and `95) and Brandon Hunter (2003). Trent additionally earned MAC Freshman of the Year honors in 1993, duplicating the feat of Rush Floyd in 1991 during his freshman campaign with the Bobcats.
Jamerson set a MAC record with 874 points in 1990 while taking home first team Academic All-America honors that season. Later in 1990, Jamerson was an National Basketball Association (NBA) first round selection (15th pick overall) by Miami. Trent, a third team Associated Press All-America in 1995, would leave Ohio after his junior season to become a NBA first round selection (11th overall pick) of the Milwaukee Bucks. Brandon Hunter also moved on to play professionally, being an NBA second-round pick in 2003 and currently playing for the Orlando Magic. Jamerson (third with 2,336), Trent (seventh with 2,108) and Brandon Hunter (11th with 2,012) all rank among the MAC's top 11 in scoring, while Brandon Hunter and Trent rank fifth (1,103) and ninth (1,050), respectively, on the MAC's career rebounding list.
Thirty of the 38 players he coached at Ohio who completed their eligibility there graduated, including 12 who went on to earn their Master's degrees, posting an overall graduation rate as a head coach of 85 percent. In his last season at Ohio, the Bobcats were 19-11, with a 12-6 mark in MAC competition, and his overall record with the Bobcats was 204-148.
After winning his 500th career game as a collegiate head coach (Jan. 23, 2001), Hunter said, "My approach has been simple: Arrive early, work late and chop wood all day long. I've been fortunate to be surrounded by some great people and I've worked at two great institutions, Wittenberg and Ohio. Add all those things together over 20 years and you start to have a small pile of wood."
From 1976-89, Hunter was the head coach at Wittenberg University, playing a key role in the school being the winningest NCAA Division III basketball program in terms of victories and percentage. Hunter made an immediate impact after taking over the helm, winning National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) National Coach of the Year honors in 1977 after becoming the first coach in NCAA history to win a national championship in his first season at a school. During his 13 years in that position, his team turned in a 305-76 record and made four NCAA Division III Final Four appearances (national title in 1977, national runner-up in 1983 and third place in 1980 and 1987).
He coached three national players of the year at Wittenberg, including Tyrone Curtis (1981), Tim Casey (1985) and Brad Baldridge (1991), as well as having 21 all-conference honors bestowed upon his players. In addition to coaching those national players of the year, four of Wittenberg's top five career scorers were coached by Hunter, including the school's all-time leader Steve Iannarino (1,973). Hunter won a total of 12 Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) titles, six regular-season championships and six tournament championships. For his success, Hunter was inducted into the Wittenberg University Hall of Honor in 1996 and received the school's Honorary Alumnus Award in 1997.
Hunter, who got his start in coaching as an assistant coach at Marietta College from 1971-73, graduated from Ohio in 1971 with a B.S. in Education, majoring Social Studies Comprehensive. He earned his Master of Science in Physical Education from Ohio in 1973, then spent three seasons (1973-76) as an assistant coach at Wittenberg. He got his first taste of postseason play while serving on the Wittenberg staff, reaching the NCAA Division III championship game in 1976.
In addition to his coaching resume, Hunter produced a basketball instructional video, "Drills, Skills and Moves: Post Play Moves & Drills."
Hunter is married to the former Mary Kay Friedrich of London, Ohio.