Ending a quick coaching search, Tulane announced the hiring of Georgia State's Ron Hunter as its men's basketball coach on Sunday night.
Hunter, 54, will be formally introduced on Tuesday at a noon news conference. He led Georgia State to the NCAA tournament the past two years and in three of the past five after taking over at the Atlanta commuter school in 2011-12. The Panthers lost to Houston 84-55 in the first round on Friday as a No. 14 seed, and Hunter interviewed with Tulane athletic director Troy Dannen on Saturday, seven days after Dannen fired coach Mike Dunleavy at the end of a rough three-year tenure that included two seasons with the most losses in school history.
“I could not be more excited to welcome Ron and Amy Hunter and their family to Tulane University,” Dannen said. “Coach Hunter is a winner in every respect. We are thrilled to bring his leadership to our campus and the city of New Orleans.”
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.
Hunter, the most accomplished coach Tulane has hired in generations, went 171-95 at Georgia State, which had played in the NCAA tournament only twice before he arrived and won 20 games in a season only three times. He has won at least 20 games in seven of his eight seasons there.
Before going to Georgia State, Hunter went 274-219 in 13 years at IUPUI, guiding it to the Summit League tournament championship and what remains its only NCAA tournament berth in 2002-03.
"Being wanted is something that's a great thing," Hunter told Atlanta TV station WSB in a video interview. "They really wanted me to come down there and turn the program around, and I thought that was real important also, that they really reached out. Other people called us, but this is the right time and the right place."
He inherits a team that went 4-27 overall and 0-18 in the American Athletic Conference this season, finishing on a 21-game skid. The Wave has not been to the NCAA tournament since 1995 or the NIT since 2000, cycling through four coaches after Perry Clark, the man responsible for all three NCAA berths, left for Miami in 2000.
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.
Of Clark's four successors, only Ed Conroy (2010-16) had been a college head coach, and he went 49-76 in four years at The Citadel. Shawn Finney (2000-05) was an assistant coach at Kentucky, Dave Dickerson (2005-10) was an assistant at Maryland and Dunleavy had coached only in the NBA.
They combined for four winning seasons, with Conroy's 20 victories in 2012-13 the high-water mark.
Twenty-win seasons have been the norm for Hunter, who reached that total twice in his past four years at IUPUi before heading to Georgia State.
He likely will double his yearly salary at Tulane, but he said he would have worked at Georgia State free of charge because he liked it so much there. Ultimately, he decided he wanted a new challenge.
“This (Tulane) is the kind of job I’ve always taken,” he told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “The expectations are kind of mid-level, and you try to exceed those expectations. Mark my words, I’ll get it done.”
Hunter graduated from Miami (Ohio) in 1986 and added a master’s in 1987. He was a standout for the Redhawks basketball team, going 81-30 in four years there, winning two Mid-American Conference championships and reaching the NCAA tournament three times along with high school and college teammate Ron Harper, who went on to win five NBA championships with the Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Lakers.
Hunter coached two NBA first-round draft picks — George Hill (2008) at IUPUI and his son, R.J. Hunter (2015), at Georgia State.
Citing sources, Sports Business Journal published information from the leaked contract on Tuesday night. The deal would be about a four-fold increase on the old one.
His most famous moments there took place in 2015 after he tore his Achilles tendon celebrating the Panthers' 38-36 Sun Belt tournament championship game victory against Georgia Southern. He used a scooter to get around during the NCAA tournament, coaching from a stool.
When No. 14 seed Georgia State rallied from a 12-point deficit in the last three minutes to upset No. 3 seed Baylor 57-56 on his son's 30-foot 3-pointer, he fell off the stool and had to be helped up in an iconic scene replayed over and over for the rest of the NCAA tournament.
He will have plenty of work to do to turn Tulane into an NCAA tournament contender. The Wave never has finished better than 6-12 in its five years in the AAC, a strong basketball league that produced four tournament teams this season, including No. 3 seed Houston. Tulane has been an abysmal 5-40 in league home games during that span, playing at a largely empty venue.
The Wave returns leading scorer Caleb Daniels, a sophomore from St. Augustine who exploded for 31 second-half points in the regular-season finale against Wichita State. Second-leading scorer and top rebounder Samir Sehic tweeted this week he was turning professional and would not be back for his senior season.
it remains to be seen what happens with the rest of the roster, including freshmen Connor Crabtree, Moses Wood and Kevin Zhang, all of whom showed promise in varying degrees during erratic first years. Dannen said when he announced Dunleavy's firing that he urged all of them to wait for him to hire a coach and give him a chance before deciding whether they wanted to stay or leave.