How Ron Hunter’s Big Dance became a sock hop

Ron Hunter, wheeling away. (Chris O’Meara/AP photo)

Ron Hunter, wheeling away. (Chris O'Meara/AP photo)

Ron Hunter, wheeling away. (Chris O’Meara/AP photo)

Jacksonville, Fla. — Ron Hunter wheeled himself onto the court at Veterans Memorial Coliseum and assessed the bench Georgia State will occupy during its NCAA tournament game with Baylor on Thursday. “I’m trying to see how I can do this,” he said.

Minutes earlier, he’d told the assembled media he wouldn’t coach from a sitting position, having never done so in his 23-year career. But standing is no bargain, seeing as how Hunter’s left leg is in a cast due to the Achilles injury he sustained in celebration of the team’s Sun Belt tournament championship and he’s using a scooter to get around. (Not always adroitly, he conceded. He fell once Tuesday, and his helpful players hid the scooter before practice Wednesday.)

Someone wondered if having one scooter wheel outside the area known as the coaching box would draw a technical foul. “You can’t give a T to a handicapped person!” Hunter fairly cried. “What ref would do that?”

Maybe Teddy Valentine, it was suggested, prompting a knowing look from Hunter. Valentine worked Sunday’s Sun Belt tournament final, in which the Panthers took fewer free throws and were assessed with more fouls than Georgia Southern. (Indeed, Georgia Southern came within a last-gasp trey of winning a game in which it managed 11 baskets.)

Hunter and the three Panthers available in the media room — R.J. Hunter, Ryan Harrow and Kevin Ware — were quite the hit. The elder Hunter revealed his top-secret plan to keep his gifted son from turning pro after the season: Buy him a car and clothes and give him lots of money. This drew hearty laughs.

Hunter also mentioned that he planned to take back his votes for President Obama because the First Bracket has Baylor beating Georgia State. Naturally, Hunter saw motivational fodder in this: “I’m going to tell the players, ‘Even the President doesn’t think you can win.’ ”

The players conceded that they’d been ripping their injured coach without cessation. Said Harrow, himself nursing a sore hamstring: “Yesterday with his cast on, he didn’t have a sock over his foot. So I told him I just wanted him to put a sock over his toes while he’s out there on the floor.”

Good point. And who knew the Big Dance would turn into a sock hop?

Further reading: Ron Hunter’s plan to keep R.J.: Buy him a car.

Further still: Already a good story, Georgia State aims higher.