Here’s the way it works: A mid-major coach wins an NCAA tournament game and becomes a Hot Item. Ron Hunter of Georgia State won an NCAA tournament game and became the Hottest Item of the 2015 Big Dance.
Not 24 hours after the Panthers were eliminated by Xavier, Hunter was receiving the inevitable calls — he described them as “feelers” — asking if he’d be interested in this job or that job. And they made sense, for many reasons.
One, Ron Hunter is 50; if he’s going to make a big move, he needs to make it soon. Two, his son R.J. is apt to leave for the NBA. Three, he’s making $425,000 at Georgia State — his salary gets bumped to $500,000 next season because the Panthers made the NCAA tournament — which is less than half what Brian Gregory is being paid by Georgia Tech. Four, Hunter can really, really coach.
But hold your horses. Here’s what Hunter said Sunday: “I am 50, and quality of life means more to me. That’s not to say if there’s a job for me — a no-brainer — that I’d say no to looking at that, but there aren’t many of those. I don’t have to chase money. My happiness means a lot more to me.”
Then this: “I love where I’m at. I love what I’m doing.”
Then: “Me just taking a job for the money, I’m not going to do that.”
Also speaking Sunday, Georgia State athletic director Charlie Cobb said: “There’s no doubt we want Ron Hunter to be our basketball coach and continue to represent Georgia State with grace and humility.”
Asked if Georgia State would move to bump Hunter’s salary in the effort to keep him, Cobb said: “That process started last year (when Hunter’s contract was redone and extended through 2020 under then-AD Cheryl Levick). It was significantly upgraded and he has reaped the benefit of that.”
That, however, was before Hunter became famous for falling out of his chair after his son’s hero shot. There needs to be another bump coming. We say again: Ron Hunter can really, really coach.