AD Troy Dannen said he was looking for a coach with NCAA tournament experience either as a boss or an assistant and who could upgrade the talent level quickly. Dunleavy insisted the talent already was on hand.
No source at Tulane would confirm it, but Rothstein’s tweet came on the heels of other reports that athletic director Troy Dannen was leaning toward Hunter. Seth Davis of CBS tweeted Friday evening that Hunter might be headed to Tulane and Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Mark Bradley reported it was a strong possibility.
Hunter, 54, has led the Panthers to the NCAA tournament the last two years and in three of the last five after taking over at the Atlanta commuter school in 2011-12.
Georgia State lost to Houston 84-55 in the first round Friday as a No. 14 seed — but in the same situation in 2015, they pulled a memorable upset of No. 3 seed Baylor when Hunter’s son, R.J. Hunter, drained a long 3-pointer with 2.7 seconds left.
Tulane has not been to the NCAA tournament since 1995, and Mike Dunleavy last Saturday became the fourth consecutive coach to get fired after failing to turn around the program. The Green Wave went winless in conference play this year for the first time in school history, ending Dunleavy’s third season on a 21-game losing streak.
Dunleavy, who never had coached in college until taking the Tulane job, had two of three losingest seasons in school history and ends his tenure on a 21-game skid.
The animated Hunter has not had a losing record since going 15-16 in 2012-13, compiling a 171-95 record at Georgia State. Before coaching the Panthers, he went 274-219 in 13 years at IUPUI, guiding that school to what remains its only NCAA tournament berth in 2002-03.
He is known almost as much for what happened when his first two teams made the NCAA tournament than anything else. AT IUPUI, he tore his pants sliding on the floor celebrating a tournament championship victory against Valparaiso.
At Georgia State, he tore his Achilles tendon celebrating a Sun Belt championship game win against Georgia Southern at UNO’s Lakefront Arena. He then became a media sensation when he was forced to move around on a scooter during the NCAA tournament and sit on a stool during the games. He fell off the stool and had to be helped up when his son sank his game-winning shot, completing a comeback from a 13-point second-half deficit.
Hunter is familiar with Tulane's personnel. Georgia State beat Tulane 80-76 at Devlin Fieldhouse on Nov. 28 this season and defeated the Wave 70-59 in Atlanta last year.
Hunter went 9-3 in six years of playing the Sun Belt tournament at Lakefront Arena, winning three titles and losing in the championship game once at the pressure-packed event for the one-bid league, where winning its tournament was the only way to get into the NCAA tournament.
The pressure would be much different at Tulane, which has not had a winning record since 2012-13 and has finished near the bottom of the American Athletic Conference in all five years it has been in the league.
If Hunter gets the job, his first task will be seeing how many players he can retain.
Forward Samir Sehic, who has one year of eligibility left, tweeted this week that he would turn professional rather than returning to Tulane. Before Dunleavy was fired, Sehic said he definitely planned to be back with the Wave. He averaged 12.3 points and a team-high 7.7 rebounds this season after leading the AAC in field-goal percentage as a sophomore.