CULLOWHEE, N.C. – Larry Hunter announced Sunday that he is stepping down as the Western Carolina head men’s basketball coach with the completion of the 2017-18 season. Hunter, who just wrapped up his 13th season at the head of the Catamount program, was named the head coach of WCU men’s basketball in April 2005.
“We are so very grateful and thank Larry for his hard work and dedication to our men’s basketball program during his career in Cullowhee,” said WCU Director of Athletics Randy Eaton.
With over 700 career victories on his coaching résumé, Hunter’s 38-year head coaching career spanned three different universities with each stop featuring 12-plus years of service. He is just one of 40 NCAA men’s basketball coaches all-time to eclipse the 700-career win plateau, doing so this season in a convincing, 88-71, home win over Samford on Feb. 3, 2018. Hunter is one of just 29 head coaches on that list that spent at least 10 years at the NCAA Division I level.
Among active NCAA head coaches, Hunter currently ranks eighth in overall career victories with 702.
“Sometimes when you’ve been at one place for a number of years, it’s just time for new leadership, a new voice,” said Hunter in a statement on Sunday morning. “In the 13 years that I’ve been associated with Western Carolina University, I’ve seen a tremendous positive change at both the university and within the athletics department – and it’s been fun to be a part of some of that change. With regards to the men’s basketball program, I was brought here to add some stability and do things the right way. I feel during my time in Cullowhee, we’ve done just that. But, at this time, I feel that it’s time for some new team leadership.”
All told, Hunter’s 47-year collegiate coaching career has been spent between five different institutions including stops as an assistant or associate head coach at Marietta College (1971-73) and North Carolina State (2001-05), with head coaching positions held at Wittenberg (1976-89), his alma mater Ohio University (1989-2001), and Western Carolina (2005-18).
During his tenure in Cullowhee, Hunter guided Western Carolina to a pair of Southern Conference North Division Championships (2008-09, 2010-11), two appearances in the SoCon Basketball Championship game (2011-12, 2013-14), and took the Catamounts to a pair of postseason berths with the 2010 CollegeInsider.com Postseason Tournament and the 2016 College Basketball Invitational (CBI). He also tallied WCU’s only 20-plus win season since moving to the NCAA Division I level, posting a 22-12 mark in the 2009-10 season.
In addition to ranking among the CollegeInsider.com Mid-Major Top 25 for 12-straight weeks in 2009-10, that same year, WCU appeared in the “others receiving votes” category in both the USA Today / ESPN Coaches’ poll (47th) and Associated Press Top 25 (51st) in December.
Hunter’s squads twice set a Ramsey Center record, winning 11 games at home during the 2008-09 season only to be eclipsed a year later with 14 home victories as a part of a 14-2 ledger. Between the two seasons, Hunter’s Catamounts recorded a 15-game home winning streak while also posting two of the top three Ramsey Center attendances in facility history – 6,024 vs. Appalachian State and 4,765 vs. College of Charleston during the 2009-10 season.
Hunter’s squads rewrote the school’s single-season record books for 3-pointers made, initially surpassing the school benchmark in his inaugural season in 2005-06 before eventually eclipsing that mark. Former Catamount sharp-shooter Jake Robinson broke the school’s career 3-pointers made record within Hunter’s offense.
Combined, Hunter won 193 games over his 13 seasons at the helm in Cullowhee, the second-most wins in the second-longest tenure in program history. Only Jim Gudger (1950-1969) held the position longer (19 years) and won more games (311).
Off the court, Hunter’s squads have excelled in the classroom, too, garnering the NCAA’s APR Public Recognition Award four-straight years. Hunter led the Catamounts to a perfect 1000 APR from 2009-13 and then again from 2010-14. Robinson, a 2010 graduate from WCU, was the recipient of SoCon Coleman-Lew Leadership Award and was an ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America selection. He has also seen two players – Sam Smithson and Ashley Williams – earn NABC Honors Court selections.
Over his 13 seasons on the sidelines at WCU, Hunter recruited and mentored two SoCon Freshmen of the Year – Harouna Mutombo in 2008-09 and Trey Sumler in 2010-11; two SoCon Defensive Players of the Year – Brigham Waginger in 2009-10 and Richie Gordon in 2010-11; and saw 11 different players collect All-Southern Conference accolades including two this season in junior transfer Mike Amius and all-freshman team selection, Matt Halvorsen.
Hunter’s head coaching career began with a bang in 1976-77 as he guided the Wittenberg Tigers to an Ohio Athletic Conference (OAC) regular season title on the way to claiming a NCAA Division III National Championship. Hunter was named the NCAA Div. III Coach of the Year following that historic run. He led the Tigers to 11, 20-plus win seasons, five OAC regular season championships, and seven OAC tournament titles, as well as a NCAA Div. III national runner-up in 1982-83 and a pair of national third-place finishes in 1979-80 and 1986-87.
All told, four of Wittenberg’s top 10 individual scorers played for Hunter, including the program’s all-time leader, Steve Iannarino (1,973 points).
After 13 seasons at Wittenberg, Hunter got the call back to his alma mater of Ohio University in Athens, Ohio in 1989. He guided the Bobcats to 10 winning seasons including 20-or-more victories three times in his 12 seasons on the bench.
While at Ohio, Hunter coached two Mid-America Conference (MAC) Players of the Year in Dave Jamerson (1989-90) – who was a first round NBA pick – and three-time recipient, Gary Trent. He also recruited and coached MAC Freshman of the Year, Rush Floyd, in 1990-91 and Trent in 1992-93.
A national search for Western Carolina’s next men’s basketball head coach will begin immediately.