LINCOLN — In his six seasons as a Georgetown basketball assistant, Kenya Hunter coached in more NCAA tournament games (seven) than Nebraska has played in its 117-year history (six.)
So why would someone from a perennial power who grew up in Virginia and has all East Coast coaching ties leave to join Tim Miles as a Husker assistant?
“I asked Kenya that very thing,” Miles said Monday after revealing the hire.
And the answer?
“Kenya wants to be a head coach,” Miles said. “Being in the Big Ten will be a different recruiting network for him, which will help him while he can use his old network to improve us. That's a win-win there.”
Coaching a different style of play also could benefit Hunter, who previously has worked at Xavier and North Carolina State.
“He's been mostly with Princeton-style offenses,” Miles said. “We're more motion where we pass and catch and move the ball. It will make him more well-rounded. And it's a different area of the country.
“So for a variety of reasons it will be good for all of us.”
Hunter, 45, said the lone trip of his life to the state of Nebraska was a recent campus visit to meet with Miles. And when he told his children, ages 12 and 10, they were moving to Lincoln, their one-word reaction was, “What??!!”
“But kids will adapt quickly, and I will, too,” Hunter said. “I'm really looking forward to this opportunity.”
In particular, the chance to guide potential recruits through NU's Hendricks Training Complex.
“That is like a mini-Taj Mahal,” Hunter said. “It's unbelievable to have a chance to work in a facility like that.”
Miles and Hunter had no prior connection before this coaching search. Miles said a mutual friend of Arizona coach Sean Miller, for whom Hunter worked at Xavier, told Miles that Hunter might be interested in the position at NU.
“My first reaction,” Miles said, “was, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah.' A week later, I was talking to that guy again and he asked if I had talked to Kenya. I told him to have him call me.”
An hour later, the phone rang.
“We started the process, and it's been good,” Miles said. “He's a smart guy. He gets it. He has a great network of contacts and is an excellent recruiter. He's the whole package.”
Miles took nearly two months to make this hire after Ben Johnson left for Minnesota. That was intentional.
“I was not looking for a guy just to deliver a player here or there or a quick fix,” Miles said. “I was looking for someone to improve our program in all aspects, and I think Kenya does that.”
Hunter played guard at Duquesne, where he was a three-year captain and the team's assist leader. He is one of two assistants who have left Georgetown this spring, along with the director of basketball operations.
“I had been at Georgetown for almost seven years, and this is a chance to learn a different way,” he said. “Getting into the Big Ten was an attraction, too.
“Once I got here and met Coach Miles and saw the facilities and met the staff, it was a no-brainer. This is a good situation for me to get into.”
Hunter does want to be a head coach someday.
“But I'm not looking to come to Lincoln and then turn around and leave,” he said. “I told Coach Miles I'm coming in with the mindset of working year by year to build this thing the way he wants to.”
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