Larry Hunter, who coached men's basketball at Ohio for 12 years, won a national championship at Wittenberg and revived the Western Carolina men’s basketball program, died Friday morning from complications of a massive stroke. He was 68.
Hunter suffered a stroke last Sunday and was put on life support upon being admitted to WakeMed Cary Hospital in North Carolina, where he died.
"The entire Ohio Athletics family is saddened to hear of the passing of Larry Hunter," Ohio athletic director Jim Schaus said in a news release. "Coach Hunter left a lasting legacy at Ohio and touched the lives of everyone he came in contact with. He will be missed."
Born August 8, 1949 in Athens, Ohio, Hunter graduated from The Plains High School and Ohio University, where he played basketball under coach Jim Snyder. Hunter coached the Bobcats from 1989-2001, during which they went 204-148. While at Ohio, he coached three Mid-American Conference Players of the Year: Dave Jamerson, Lewis Geter and Gary Trent. Trent was a third-team Associated Press All-American selection in 1995.
Under Hunter, who only had two losing seasons while coaching in Athens, the Bobcats went 25-8 in 1993-94, won the MAC Tournament and earned a berth in the NCAA Tournament, where they lost to Indiana, who was coached by Bob Knight. Hunter had three seasons with at least 20 wins. He guided the Bobcats to the 1994 preseason National Invitation Tournament championship. The Bobcats made the second round of the postseason NIT that same season.
“Coach Hunter was the kind of guy, the way he carried himself, the way he cared about you that he had a lifelong relationship with him and he had a lifelong impact into your life,” Jamerson said. “Seriously, a lot of the things, how I am today as a leader, as a husband, as a father, the kind of coach I was, I modeled a lot of it off of him and the leadership that I saw in his life.”
Before coaching at Ohio, Hunter was an assistant at Marietta College (1971-1973) and the head coach at Wittenberg (1976-1989), where he won the 1977 NCAA Division III National Championship.
“I inherited an outstanding group from Bob Hamilton,” Hunter said after the championship game. “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.”
Hunter also won five Ohio Athletic Conference regular season titles and seven OAC Tournament titles. Hunter, the 1977 National Association of Basketball Coaches Division III Coach of the Year, won 20 games 11 times and reached four Final Fours. His Wittenberg team lost in the 1982-83 national championship game.
After he was fired at Ohio, Hunter became an assistant at North Carolina State (2001-2005). He was named the head coach at Western Carolina in 2005. At WCU, Hunter won 193 games, which included a 22-12 campaign in 2009-10, the first 20-win season for the Catamounts as a D-I program. He retired from coaching on March 4.
At the time, Hunter said he decided to leave Western Carolina because the program needed a new voice.
Over the course of his 47-year career, Hunter coached at five schools. He made two stops as an assistant and three as a head coach. Hunter is one of 40 coaches in men’s college basketball history with at least 700 wins; he finished his career with 702. At the time of his retirement, he was eighth all-time among active coaches for career wins.
In addition to coaching, he produced an instructional video that focuses on the fundamentals of playing basketball under the basket, titled ‘Drills, Skills and Moves: Post Play Moves and Drills.'
People who knew him said he was an intense competitor. Hunter was a student of basketball, spending hours in film studies. He boasted about the success of the men he coached and how they performed on and off the court.
"Coach Hunter has made a significant impact on my life," said Geno Ford, who played for Hunter. "Not only being willing to recruit me to Ohio University, but he also hired me to be his assistant. Without that, I don't know that I ever would have got into college coaching. So, basically, from age 18 on, he's had a major influence and thumbprint on my career and my life in general.”
“You could not have been fortunate to play for a better person than Coach Hunter was," Ford said.
Hunter was inducted to the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame in August 2016.
Hunter is survived by his wife, the former Mary Kay Friedrich; brother, Garry Hunter, and his wife, Becky Hunter; and sister, Donna, and her husband, Darrell Brown.