UVU basketball: Coach Dick Hunsaker discusses being at UVU, mentor Rick Majerus and coaching his son
Matt Gade, Deseret News
Dick Hunsaker has built Utah Valley University's basketball program from the ground up, beginning in 2002 when the school was a junior college and making the transition to the NCAA's Division I.
He began his head coaching career at Ball State in 1989, where he found instant success in taking the Cardinals to the Sweet 16 in his first year. He left his job after four years and a 97-33 record in the midst of an NCAA investigation — even though the school did not blame him for any wrongdoing. He coached in the CBA and Manchester College before landing at the University of Utah, where he coached with former mentor Rick Majerus for four years, including one season when he filled in for an ill Majerus and was the MWC's coach of the year. He has been at UVU for the past 12 years and has compiled a record of 212-135.
Deseret News sportswriter Mike Sorensen talked with Hunsaker about his 37-year coaching career, which began as a graduate assistant at alma mater Weber State in 1977.
Your team is off to great start in your first year in the WAC, standing in first place with three road wins already. Are you surprised by your instant success in the WAC?
Any time you play three of four on the road and you pull them out, there’s always a degree of surprise. I have a group that’s not going to turn your heads with talent, but they play hard; they play intelligently; they play together with all the core fundamentals; and they believe in what we’re doing. We’ve been competitive in all of our games outside of Oklahoma State. We’ve played them all well and had a very challenging schedule.
Your son Holton is a senior and leads your team in scoring (12.0 ppg) and assists (4.3 apg). What has it been like coaching your son?
I never believed in coaching my kids. I never coached them in Pee Wee ball or in any aspect. It was never an intended direction to coach my son. It just kind of fell that way. But in the grand scheme of things, it’s been terrific. He’s an exceptional young man; he stands for so many good things; he represents good things on and off the court. It’s worked out for us because of his style, his drive, his effort and his competitiveness.
You worked with Rick Majerus at Ball State and at the University of Utah. What was it like coaching for Majerus?
For me it was wonderful coaching with Rick. The relationship, friendship and times we had always brings a tear to my eye. We went so far back in life, the development of both of our careers and his influence and the friendship he gave me was irreplaceable. I first met him when I was a player at Weber State in the mid-'70s and he was in his first or second year at Marquette and we were working basketball camps in the mountains at Fort Lewis College in Colorado. He had hair back then. Rick had such a wonderful sense of humor. We were certainly hard-nosed and competitive and very driven, but sometimes at practice, the players were afraid to crack a smile or laugh. He really helped my style as a coach.
What have been the biggest highlights of your career?
Obviously the Sweet 16 was a highlight in my first year at Ball State. Coaching the Utes was a big deal. That frying pan was sizzling when I stepped in. The team I had was not yet a unit and the adjustment between Rick and myself took a little time and it took us awhile to get untracked. That was a real challenge but a great credit to the kids I coached on that team. But the greatest experience for me has been Utah Valley. From where we started to where we are now has been really a fantastic experience.
Do you ever look back and wonder what might have been if you’d moved up the coaching ladder?
Sure, but in the big scheme, you don’t know how you would have handled success. I’m a big believer in things happening for a reason and a purpose. The relationships I’ve had with my players has been so important throughout my career and none greater than my time at Utah Valley. When you get up in years, you start reflecting and what really does matter really is the relationships. As my career has evolved, without question, the greatest rewards have been my relationships with the players I have coached from my first JV players at Weber in 1977 to the CBA to now. It really has made ... my career path feel 100 percent where it should have been.
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