MARCH 28, 2019
Tuesday, Tulane had an introductory press conference to announce the signing of former Georgia State coach, Ron Hunter, to lead the Green Wave basketball team, replacing the recently fired, Mike Dunleavy Sr. When Tulane first hired Mike Dunleavy Sr. roughly 3 years ago, he was considered an outside-the-box hire: he came in boasting a resume that included being former NBA coach of the year, but there were question marks as to whether his coaching style would necessarily translate to the collegiate game. Last week, in the wake of the firing of Dunleavy, Tulane athletic director, Troy Dannen, mentioned that for the new hire, we could expect a more “inside the box” hire. We could expect someone who had head coaching experience at the collegiate level, and more importantly, at the NCAA tournament level. Ron Hunter checks all of those boxes off and more, as he has been a collegiate head coach for the past twenty years, and in three of the last five years he has been to the NCAA tournament. Additionally, Hunter has rebuilt and overseen the transition into a new conference at both IUPUI (from NAIA to the Summit Conference) and at Georgia State (from the CAA to the Sun Belt). Many college basketball fans will remember Hunter’s name from when he notoriously fell out of his chair following a deep 3-pointer that his son RJ Hunter made in the first round of the NCAA tournament as 14-seeded Georgia State toppled the 3-seeded Baylor in the 2015 NCAA tournament. But what else will Hunter bring to the Green Wave hoops team?
This may seem evident given the incident just described, but Hunter is an emotional coach. When you listen to Hunter speak to his players and to the media, you can feel the tangible bond that Hunter feels with his players. This quality will undoubtedly help on the recruiting trail. Despite making the move from Atlanta to New Orleans, Hunter recently said he expects Atlanta to be a “hot recruiting base for (Tulane)” -- further noting that he plans on recruiting New Orleans “but if I end up with 13 kids from Atlanta, I’ll be okay with that too”.
Efficiency on both ends of the floor
Ron Hunter is definitely a coach who prides himself on efficiency on both ends of the floor. Offensively, Hunter’s teams tend to be disciplined and not turn the ball over. In fact, per KenPom, in three of the last six seasons, Georgia State has ranked in the top 50 for lowest offensive turnover percentage. In 2014, Georgia State had the lowest turnover percentage in the country at just 11.9%. For reference, Tulane ranked 317th in the country this past year in this stat, boasting a TO% of 21%. Furthermore, Hunter’s teams typically are efficient in shooting as well as Georgia State has ranked in the top 75 for effective field goal percentage five of the past six years. Defensively, creating turnovers are a staple of Hunter’s coaching scheme. Georgia State has ranked in the top 50 nationally in defensive turnover percentage, block percentage, and steal percentage in four of the last six seasons. Again, for reference, this past season Tulane ranked 338th nationally in defensive turnover percentage, 215th in block percentage, and 322nd in steal percentage. Expect Ron Hunter to bring in a renewed sense of discipline on both ends of the floor.
As aforementioned, Ron Hunter brings to Tulane a resume filled with winning and trips to the postseason. Correspondingly, Hunter did not short sell himself at the press conference, as he immediately set the bar high for both himself and the team next season stating that his two primary goals for next year were: “Number 1: pulling off the biggest turnaround in NCAA history, from being 0-18 in conference, to going to the NCAA tournament, and Number 2: Proving everyone wrong.”
This hire is a lot like the hiring of Tulane Football Head Coach, Willie Fritz was a few years back. Fritz, like Hunter, had a tendency to turnaround programs. Correspondingly, Hunter (like Fritz) will likely need time to develop the young Tulane roster before they’ll be ready to compete. Tulane has a solid young core, despite what the record will have you believe, but the emphasis is on the word young. It is definitely fair for Tulane fans to be optimistic, this hire is about as good as Troy Dannen could have hoped for. Of course it is also reasonable for fans to be skeptical, it has been a long time since Green Wave hoops have seen the NCAA tournament. Only time will tell, but on the surface this is the ideal hire for the Tulane Green Wave, and I think Green Wave fans have a lot to look forward to with Ron Hunter over the next few years.