“I don’t think I [would be] a head basketball coach if it wasn’t for Dr. King.”- Ron Hunter Basketball Head Coach
In Atlanta, Black History Month has special meaning given it is the birthplace of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The contributions that black people have made in the United States have had a profound impact on all aspects of American society, including sports. It is in Atlanta where Black History Month takes on an added significance given its status as a hub of black history.
The Signal had a chance to sit down with Georgia State men’s basketball coach Ron Hunter on the importance of Black History Month in February.
What comes to mind when you think of black history?
“I think it’s different for each person. But for me, Dr. Martin Luther King is the first thing that comes to my mind. Always has been. I only had what I called one hero outside of my parents and really, it’s Dr. Martin Luther King. His being a servant, his sacrifice and what he did. Again, I don’t think I [would be] a head basketball coach if it wasn’t for Dr. King. So, that’s the first thing that comes to mind. That’s something that means a lot to me.”
How important is black history month to you ?
“It’s extremely important. Because, we have to sometimes understand where we came from. I think that sometimes that our young people today don’t realize the sacrifices that a lot of people have made to get us to where we are right now. We’re so much further ahead than we were 30, 40, 50 years ago. And it’s the people, the African-Americans that really, really had to go through a lot of pain to kind of get us there. So, I hope that our young people understand what the people in the past, our grandparents and our great grandparents, what they did to sacrifice for us.”
How important is it for you to make your team understand the importance of Black History Month?
“It’s important. Because it’s part of our culture. It’s part of our history. And if you don’t understand your history then you’re forgetting and you won’t get anywhere. It’s important that each one of our players, whether black or white, they understand the culture of African- Americans. And how it’s shaped this country. We live in the best country in the world, but it was shaped through the pain and heartache through a lot of people. So again, I think it’s important for me to make sure my guys understand what was done, whether it be Dr. King or Harriet Tubman or whoever it might be.”
Can you name some of the African American leaders that you have referenced in your time as a coach?
“Well, back to Dr. King of course. We talked with John Lewis a lot at Selma. I think those are the two we’ve spent a lot of time talking about. Because that’s meant a lot to me. One of the things I want to do is kind of give them my experiences. But those two are where it becomes close to them. Because, again, King was born right down the road. And his church is right down the road. But, then also John Lewis, who has come and spoken to our team, who has a movie out, came in and talked to our guys. What a really great firsthand experience that our guys could talk to someone who actually really went through the civil rights movement. So, John was just terrific with them.”
How has that shaped you into a basketball coach and father?
“I think just from my previous answers. Just making sure we understand and that we don’t forget. And that basically each of us carries a torch. And so my part of carrying the torch is making sure that I use coaching as a vehicle to make sure that we understand what they have done and make sure that we continue the fights for civil right for all people. Not just blacks, but for all people and that everyone is treated fairly. So, I’ve got to do my part. My players have to do their part. In the future, they have got to help their children so we can continue this legacy.”