CULLOWHEE, N.C. - Western Carolina men's basketball coach Larry Hunter is set to join the basketball greats in the state of Ohio after being selected to the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame. The 11th Annual Induction Ceremony will take place on May 21 at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.
In 45 seasons as a collegiate basketball coach – 30 of which were spent in the state of Ohio – Hunter has put together a resume worthy of induction. He has been a part of 845 wins as a coach including 680 as the leading man on the sideline. His 680 victories rank him ninth among active NCAA Division I coaches and 39th all-time ahead of all-time greats which he passed this season, John Wooden (664) and Gary Williams (668).
“I am very humbled and excited to receive this honor,” said Western Carolina head coach Larry Hunter. “As a coach, you can’t achieve anything without the help of others. This is a coaching recognition and obviously I am indebted to a great many players, assistant coaches, managers, trainers, administrators and support staff who worked extremely hard to help make this possible. I have been fortunate to have worked at five outstanding institutions with leadership who value athletics and the student-athlete experience. While I'm the one being recognized, this is an honor I share with all those who have been by my side throughout this amazing journey.”
In his 25 years as a head coach in the state of Ohio at both Wittenberg University and Ohio University, Hunter amassed an incredible 509-224 record while winning the 1977 NCAA Division III National Championship and advancing to the 1983 National Championship game.
Hunter has advanced to 18 NCAA Tournaments including 11 as a head coach and has suffered just nine losing seasons in his 36-year head coaching career.
While at Wittenberg, Hunter advanced to four NCAA Division III Final Fours, won six Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) regular season titles, six OAC tournament championships and five Great Lakes Regional championships. He lost just 76 games over 13 seasons while compiling a .801 winning percentage. He was a two-time OAC Coach of the Year honoree, six-time NABC Great Lakes District Coach of the Year and was the 1977 NABC National Coach of the Year. He was also twice named the Ohio Coach of the Year, an award that included all NCAA Division I, II and III schools as well as NAIA institutions.
Hunter was hired as head coach at Wittenberg in 1976 and guided the Tigers to the 1977 NCAA National Championship in his very first season. He was the first coach in NCAA history to win a national championship in his first season at a school.
He coached three national players of the year at Wittenberg including Tyrone Curtis (1981), Tim Casey (1985) and Brad Baldridge (1991), as well as had 21 all-conference honors bestowed upon his players. Prior to the inception of the NCAA Division III national player of the year honor, Rick White was named the Most Valuable Player of the 1977 NCAA Tournament as he led Wittenberg to a national title.
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). 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 spent 12 years (1989-2001) as head coach at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. 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 – nicknamed the Shaq of the MAC – 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. 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.
Following his time in Ohio, Hunter spent four seasons as an assistant coach at ACC member North Carolina State, including three as the Associate Head Coach. In his first season at N.C. State (2002), the Wolfpack reached the 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 four years that Hunter was on the sideline.
Hunter returned to the head coaching ranks in 2005 as he took over the Western Carolina men’s basketball program. 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. The record now stands at 274 made 3-pointers which occurred during the 2009-10 season. The top-nine slots in the school record books for 3-point field goals made in a season belong to Larry Hunter coached teams.
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 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 the 2010-11 SoCon Freshman of the Year, Trey Sumler.
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, Richie Gordon, again earned top defensive player honors.
He also guided WCU to its first 20-plus win season in 2009-10 as the Catamounts earned 22 victories and just their second postseason berth in program history with a trip to the 2010 CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT). Hunter once again led WCU to the postseason in 2016 with an invitation to the College Basketball Invitational (CBI).
He has an impressive 65-37 record in postseason play including trips to the NCAA, NIT, CIT and CBI.
Throughout his 36-year head coaching career, Hunter has guided his teams to wins over nationally ranked teams including Louisville, Bradley, Virginia, George Washington, New Mexico State, Syracuse, Connecticut, Stanford, Ohio State, Arizona State, DePaul and West Virginia.
Hunter not only leads his teams on the court but he has also been a proven leader in the classroom. All but one player he has recruited who completed his eligibility has graduated. Under Coach Hunter’s guidance, the Catamount men's basketball team garnered the APR Public Recognition Award for the fourth-straight year in 2016, the longest consecutive run by any Catamount program.
The award is given to athletic teams ranking in the top 10 percent of Academic Progress Rate (APR) scores within the NCAA Division I in their respective sports. Hunter led the Catamounts to a perfect 1000 APR from 2009-13 and then again from 2010-14. Jake Robinson, a 2010 graduate from WCU, was the recipient of SoCon Coleman-Lew Leadership Award and was an ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America selection.
Hunter will be inducted into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame Saturday, May 21 in a ceremony at the Greater Columbus Convention Center.