OZARK, Mo. -- When long time Ozark boys basketball coach Steve Hunter stepped down from his position 13 months ago he didn’t rule out the possibility of coming back to the bench.
"I would always consider it," Hunter said last April. "I'm not done coaching, I don't think. I would consider my options. I think there are a lot of things out there that I would consider. You try to look at the big picture and see what other things are out there.”
Hunter got the itch once again and with his kids all out of high school he’s dipping back into the game; this time at the college level. As of 3:00 pm Thursday Hunter officially became the North Arkansas Community College head men’s basketball coach, replacing long time coach Jerry Thomason.
“He (Thomason) has been helping me in the transition,” said Hunter, who has known about the job for a week, but kept the cat in the bag.
“It’s all about timing. My batteries are recharged, and like my dad says, ’life is timing’ and I always thought that was a good program.”
Hunter says he’s sent four former players to North Ark over the years, which is how he developed a relationship with Thomason.
While his Hall of Fame high school coaching accolades are unparalleled (536-254 in 28 seasons, 2004 state championship), Hunter’s college experience is limited to a single year as a grad assistant many years ago at a small school in Texas.
“I wanted to try my hand at college,” said Hunter. “I had to raise a family and I owed my children to be there rather than chasing the college dream.”
North Ark, a D-2 junior college program in Harrison, Arkansas, has six players returning from last year’s 12-16 squad, so Hunter has his work cut out filling at least nine roster spots as soon as possible.
“I’m kind of behind the 8 ball, but I’ll take it whenever it comes. We’ve just got to chase down some players that fit my system and are a good fit for Harrison.”
While Hunter lacks college experience he certainly has no lack of connections in the Ozarks.
“I think the fact I know most of the coaches in Southwest Missouri will benefit me. I think they’ll understand what they’re getting into. I want some quality kids to come down there that reflect on me and the community.”
Hunter, who also served as assistant principal at Ozark High School, officially retires from the public school system on June 30th.
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