Former Wittenberg coach hit hard by death of his mentor, Larry Hunter

May 06, 2018
Wittenberg head coach Bill Brown acknowledges the crowd surrounding him as he cuts down the net following a NCAA tournament victory in 2006. (News-Sun photo by Bill Lackey)

Bill Brown knew he wouldn’t get much time Saturday night to speak when he was inducted into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame. He had a lot of people he wanted to thank for a career that saw him win 543 games, most of them in 23 seasons with the Wittenberg Tigers.

However, Brown planned to use some of his time to talk about a man who meant so much to him: Larry Hunter, the former Wittenberg coach who passed away Friday at 68.

“While I’ll remember a lot of things about Larry,” Brown said, “I think No. 1 on my list is the countless hours I observed him talking one-on-one with players in-season, out of season, in the summer, on the phone — and they weren’t just talking basketball. They were talking life and and future aspirations. I was never very good at that. I cared about the players, and I know the players knew that I cared about them, but man, the time he spent with them, I was envious of his ability to do that. To me, that’s an indicator of why there’s going to be so many people who miss his presence in the world.”

» RELATED: Coaching colleagues pay tribute to Hunter

Brown, who stepped down at Wittenberg in 2016, and Hunter rank first and second in Wittenberg history in victories with 483 and 305, respectively. When Hunter left Wittenberg to coach the Ohio Bobcats in 1989, he hired Brown as an assistant coach. Brown spent four seasons in Athens.

In 1993, after Hunter’s successor, Dan Hipsher, left Wittenberg for Stetson, Brown got the job at Wittenberg.

“I don’t know all that went into Wittenberg and (athletic director) Carl Schraibman deciding to hire me,” Brown said, “but I guarantee Larry had a lot to do with it.”

Brown talked to Hunter last month and said Hunter was his typical “go-go energetic self.” He described Hunter’s death as surreal and said it had hit him hard.

“He was only 68, which in this day and age isn’t that old at all,” Brown said.

» PHOTOS: A look back at Brown’s career

Hunter had looked forward to attending the hall of fame ceremony, Brown said, not only to see Brown honored but also to see his former Ohio star, Gary Trent, inducted. Ohio high school coaching legend Gene Ford, who coached two of Hunter’s Ohio players, Geno and Dustin Ford, was also honored.

There were a number of local connections to the 2018 class. Catholic Central graduate Jason Collier, who died in 2005, was inducted. The 1964-65, 1965-66, 1965-67 University of Dayton teams, coached by Don Donoher, were inducted.

Brown is the fifth Wittenberg men’s basketball coach to be inducted, following Ray Mears (2006 class), Eldon Miller (2009), Hunter (2016) and Bob Hamilton (2017). Late women’s coach Pam Evans Smith (2011) is also a member of the hall of fame.

Brown moved to Westfield, Ind., with his wife Kay after his Wittenberg career ended. Their sons, Chris and Tom, also live in Indiana. Brown has stayed in the game by helping coach the Westfield High School team the last two years. He said the hall of fame honor came about because of numerous people who helped him throughout his career.

“I’m going to accept the award,” Brown said, “but I truly am accepting it for a variety of different factions who all had a hand in it: assistant coaches, mentors. Every single mentor I had as a coach is already in the hall of fame, and the one guy who’s not in the hall of fame (Jim Hamilton, of Upper Arlington High School), he’s got the court he coached on named after him.”