I’ll own it. I underestimated what Archie Miller was capable of with this hire.
On Sunday the news broke that Indiana will welcome former Connecticut assistant Kenya Hunter to fill the void left by the departure of Bruiser Flint.
Hunter checks every single box I thought Miller might prioritize.
“High major coaching experience, a proven recruiter, has ties to the east coast, and an African American.”
Check, check, check, check.
As I researched names that might fit the profile last week, I cruised right past the UConn staff. Didn’t even look at it. Why?
Could IU really pull someone from another of the game’s top brands for a lateral move? With a cash strapped athletic department, could IU lure a top name with money? With UConn seemingly a program on the rise under Dan Hurley, would an assistant on the Huskies’ staff really be looking to make a non-promotion move right now?
Even with someone like Hunter that has ties to the Miller family, no need to consider him as a candidate, right? Wrong.
As a validation of the strength of the IU brand, and the relationships that Miller has developed and maintained, Indiana was indeed able to bring Hunter from the UConn staff.
And it is a really strong hire for several reasons that go beyond the core attributes that I viewed as essential. Let’s examine why.
A KNOWN COMMODITY
The integration of Hunter into the IU staff should be fairly seamless.
Hunter was at N.C. State in two different capacities when Archie Miller played there, both as a manager and then as the director of basketball operations. They know each other well.
Hunter was also an assistant under Miller’s brother Sean at Xavier for three seasons (2004 to 2007). Also on that Xavier staff were Bill Comar, who is now at IU, and current IU director of basketball operations Brian Walsh, who Hunter recruited to play for the Musketeers.
The Miller brothers are philosophically very similar as basketball coaches. Having coached under Sean, Hunter can step in with a working knowledge of what Indiana is trying to do on both ends of the floor, along with player development.
Moreover, Archie Miller knows what he is getting from Hunter from the standpoint of his work ethic, personality and any other intangibles that he values in assistants.
BIG TEN EXPERIENCE
One thing Hunter will bring to IU that I didn’t focus on — because it seemed like it would be asking for too much — was a coach with Big Ten experience. Hunter was at Nebraska from 2013 to 2018.
Why is that important? There are many reasons but one stands out.
Hunter knows the other coaches and their styles. A big part of any assistant’s job is game planning. Hunter will be able to step in immediately and bring real insight and experience.
AN IN DEMAND NAME AND A SEASONED PRO
Hunter has been looked upon favorably in the coaching community for a long time, and he has been hired by some top coaches and programs.
After working for Sean Miller, Hunter was hired by John Thompson III at Georgetown. It is worth noting that this was at the height of the Hoyas’ success under Thompson III. Hunter was hired by Georgetown following their Final Four run in 2007.
Nebraska head coach Tim Miles was able to lure Hunter away from Georgetown after he spent six years there. Lincoln wasn’t a logical choice for Hunter, who said at the time that he was looking for a change and to learn a new way. Although they didn’t turn around the program, Miles and Hunter turned Nebraska into a tough out and led the Huskers to their first NCAA Tournament appearance in 16 years during their second season in Lincoln.
Next Hunter went to work with Dan Hurley at UConn. Hurley had just led an impressive turnaround at Rhode Island, and he looked to Hunter to help do the same at Storrs.
Hurley said this about Hunter in 2019:
“Kenya is a real professional coach. He’s excellent with the bigs and he’s got a great way about him,” Hurley said. “Real calm, real poised and real smart professional coach.
PROVEN RECRUITING SUCCESS
When it comes to recruiting, the current Indiana staff has the Midwest covered. Miller needed a coach with ties to the east coast, and that is exactly what Hunter brings. He said as much when he was hired at UConn.
“I’m not typically known as a Midwest guy,” Hunter said. “This opportunity to get back to the Northeast will help me in my career.”
Hunter helped recruit Georgetown big man Greg Monroe along with Indianapolis top-50 product D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera during his time in D.C.
Among the players Hunter landed at Nebraska were All-Big Ten guard James Palmer, honorable mention All-Big Ten forward Isaac Copeland, and four-stars Thomas Allen, and Xavier Johnson. Hunter also brought in Glynn Watson, who was the first top-100 recruit to play for the Huskers. Relative to the program he was working for, Hunter hit it out of the park in Lincoln.
At UConn, Hunter is credited with landing a former IU target in class of 2020 big man Javonte Brown-Ferguson, as well as class of 2021 top-50 guard Jordan Hawkins. The Huskies have landed top-25 recruiting classes in each of the last two years and are on pace to do it again in 2021.
It’s worth noting that Hunter hails from the Washington D.C. metro area and has proven ties there. That is relevant now because top Indiana class of 2021 guard target Aminu Mohammed is originally from the area and plays AAU basketball for the Virginia based Boo Williams program.
Irrespective of what Hunter may or may not be able to do with Mohammed, he clearly brings IU a strong out-of-state recruiter that should complement the current staff very well.
See also: More background on Hunter
Watch — a profile on Hunter while he was at Nebraska:
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