Coach Ron Hunter has left IUPUI after 17 seasons to take over at Georgia State University, a men’s basketball program that has struggled through most of its existence.
The Panthers introduced Hunter at a campus news conference Monday just hours after the Indianapolis school announced he was leaving. He replaces Rod Barnes, who was fired just before the Colonial Athletic Association tournament after going 44-79 in four seasons, including 24-48 in league games.
Hunter was hired by IUPUI in 1994 and is the only coach in its Division I era of men’s basketball. He leaves with a 254-219 mark and school records for wins, winning percentage (.537) and games coached.
Hunter gained national attention for coaching barefoot during games to raise awareness of children who do not have shoes. With Samaritan’s Feet, Hunter has helped raise donations of more than 250,000 pairs of shoes and made deliveries to Peru, Costa Rica and South Africa.
“Ron Hunter is a proven coach and recruiter who knows what it takes to build a winning program,” Georgia State athletic director Cheryl Levick said. “He brings a tremendous amount of energy and passion, and his teams play an aggressive, up-tempo style that is both entertaining and effective. And his efforts off the court and in the community are truly remarkable.”
The 46-year-old Hunter guided IUPUI through its transition from the NAIA and NCAA Division II level to a member of the Summit League. The Jaguars reached the NCAA tournament in 2003 and have won at least 25 games in two of the last four seasons.
They also had a brush with the NCAA, vacating wins from the 2003-04 season and losing one scholarship for wrongly certifying players as eligible. The governing body blamed the issue on an administrative mistake, not the coaching staff.
This season, IUPUI went 19-14 overall and 12-6 in the conference.
Hunter is taking on a major rebuilding job at Georgia State, a program that struggles to get noticed on its own campus. Other than a brief flurry of success and notoriety under Lefty Driesell, the Panthers have produced only a handful of winning seasons.
This season, they averaged less than 1,000 fans per home game.