breaking news

HELP NEEDED: Thousands stolen from area ATMs

Larry Hunter remembered as man ‘of tremendous character’

Longtime college basketball coach made history in his first season at Wittenberg


Brian Agler spoke to Larry Hunter in March when Hunter stepped down after 13 seasons at Western Carolina University. Even after 47 years in coaching and 702 victories as a head coach, Hunter didn’t plan to stay away from college basketball for long.

“He still wanted to coach,” said Agler, who was a freshman guard at Wittenberg University in 1977 when Hunter won a national championship in his first season. “He looked at himself as a coach and as a leader. He was looking to do that again. I don’t think he going to just take any position, but he looked at himself as a head coach. I think he would have tried to continue to do that.”

» RELATED: Hunter remained close to Wittenberg program

Agler, now the head coach of the WNBA’s Los Angeles Sparks, was one of many players and coaches Hunter influenced in his career and one of the many people in college basketball mourning Hunter’s death Friday.

Hunter, 68, suffered a stroke last weekend and was on life support throughout the week at a hospital in Cary, N.C. His wife, Mary, brought him home from the hospital Thursday, Agler said, and he was in hospice care at home when he died — not in the hospital as previous reports indicated. Agler expects there to be a funeral in Raleigh, N.C., on May 12 and then a memorial service and burial later in Ohio, though he did not have all the details Friday.

Agler described Hunter as a tremendous coach, person and leader.

“He had a great run at Wittenberg and did really well at Ohio University and did great things at Western Carolina,” Agler said. “Every situation is a little bit different. You’re asked to do different things. His teams were always prepared and always well coached. When I think of coach Hunter, I think of his loyalty to his players and the influence he had on everybody who played for him. The one thing everybody carried away from playing with him is the understanding of what it took to have success. It didn’t have matter if it was basketball or whatever. He instilled a great work ethic and integrity.”

Wittenberg hired Hunter in May 1976 when he was 26 years old. He spent the two previous seasons as an assistant to Bob Hamilton.

“I think I’m ready to apply what I learned,” Hunter said then. “I will do everything I can to maintain the excellence in Wittenberg’s program.”

Hunter did that and more over the next 13 seasons, compiling a record of 305-76 before he took the head coaching job at his alma mater, Ohio, in 1989. He was the third straight coach to leave Wittenberg for a Division I job, following Ray Mears (Tennessee), Eldon Miller (Western Michigan) and Hamilton (Navy).

Hunter lived up to the standard of his predecessors and passed them in many ways, starting with his first season when the Tigers won the Division III national championship by beating Oneonta State 79-66 in Rock Island, N.Y.

“I inherited an outstanding group from Bob Hamilton,” Hunter said after the championship in 1977, “but we had to earn our way back and win the championship. I’ve always strived to be the best at whatever I did. It’s part of my makeup, and it’s a remarkable feeling once you are the best, which I feel we are right now.”

Although Hunter never won another national championship at Wittenberg, the Tigers reached the Final Four three more times. It was just the start of a long career that saw him guide the Ohio Bobcats to the NCAA tournament in 1994 with Gary Trent as the star and win two Southern Conference championships with Western Carolina in 2009 and 2011.

Hunter’s former players and colleagues used Twitter to share their memories of Hunter on Friday.

Dustin Ford, former Ohio player: “You taught me to be mentally/physically tough. Anyone who spent time with you knew how to compete. Proud to say I played for the Hunt Dog!”

Mark Prosser, Western Carolina head coach: “Larry Hunter was a man of tremendous character that spent his life mentoring and helping to develop the lives of young men. His impact was felt far beyond his many achievements on the basketball court. Coach Hunter and his legacy will live on within our program for years to come.”

Tom Crean, Georgia coach: “The passing of Coach Larry Hunter is extremely sad. He gave his heart, soul and passion to the coaching profession and ALWAYS had time and encouraging words for his peers. I followed him since I was a kid when he was at Wittenberg. Thank you to his family for sharing him with us.”

Pat Kelsey, Winthrop coach: “Every day before Winthrop basketball practice, our team makes one trip around the court without touching the out of bounds lines. This is to signify that ‘we don’t cut corners.’ Was given to me by Larry Hunter in a random conversation in 2014. He will be missed in our profession.”

Brandon Giles, Polk State head coach: “Rest well, Larry Hunter! It was a great honor to have played for one of the winningest coaches in college basketball history! Your commitment to excellence, hard work, and ability to push others to reach their full potential will NEVER go unnoticed! Love you, Coach!”

Reggie Rankin, former Ohio basketball player: “Really hard day for me. I loved Coach Hunter. I played and worked for him. He would always say, ‘Make Him Taste the Leather.’ He taught me how to compete with toughness on and off the court! Coach Hunter loved his players, coaches and their families. We were his children.”

Steve Forbes, East Tennessee State coach: “Coach Hunter was a fiery competitor & a gentlemen. He carried himself with class & dignity at all times. A true role model for all coaches. God Bless Coach Hunter and his family.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Sports

Urban Meyer endorses play of Ohio State offensive line
Urban Meyer endorses play of Ohio State offensive line

The play of Ohio State’s offensive line has been a bit of a lightning rod among the fan base this season.  The head coach provided an endorsement of the group Monday — but he wants to see more. “I think we could play a little bit better,” Meyer said two days after the Buckeyes beat Michigan State 26-6. “That was a...
Bengals Report Card: Grading Sunday’s 51-14 loss to the Saints
Bengals Report Card: Grading Sunday’s 51-14 loss to the Saints

The Cincinnati Bengals were missing their best player on offense Sunday, and the defense just didn’t show up at all. The result was one of the worst losses in franchise history, as the Bengals fell 51-14 to the New Orleans Saints. »RELATED: Bengals reportedly fire defensive coordinator »RELATED: 5 takeaways from Bengals’ blowout...
Reports: Cincinnati Bengals fire defensive coordinator
Reports: Cincinnati Bengals fire defensive coordinator

One day after an embarrassing defensive performance in a season full of them, the Bengals have fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin, according to several media reports. The Bengals on Sunday — in a 51-14 loss to the Saints — became the first team in Super Bowl Era to allow more than 500 yards in three straight games. Cincinnati allows...
Cincinnati Bengals: 5 takeaways from blowout loss to Saints
Cincinnati Bengals: 5 takeaways from blowout loss to Saints

Disappointing, frustrating, embarrassing — all words the Cincinnati Bengals used to describe Sunday’s loss. The New Orleans Saints scored on nine straight drives, racked up 509 yards of offense and handed the Bengals a 51-14 loss Sunday in front of 52,492 fans at Paul Brown Stadium in what was one of Cincinnati’s most lopsided...
High School Football Playoffs: Regional final pairings, sites
High School Football Playoffs: Regional final pairings, sites

The Ohio High School Athletic Association released the pairings for the regional finals (third round) of the football playoffs Sunday. Home team listed first. Pairings include seed and record. 1 Mentor (11-1) vs. 7 Lakewood St. Edward (8-3) at Euclid Community Field 4 Powell Olentangy Liberty (8-4) vs. 2 Dublin Coffman (11-1) at New Albany Veterans...
More Stories