Steve Hunter, who has coached the men’s Pioneers for the last nine years has announced his retirement. Steve noted a quote from him father rang true. ‘My father said, “life is timing!” In so many ways, this is so true. As I close this chapter of my life, I will keep my eyes open for opportunities to accept other challenges.’
Steve became head coach of the Pioneers in August 2014. Before Northark, he led three Missouri programs – West Plains, Hartville, and Ozark to a combined six Final Fours within a 10-year period seizing a Class 4 state title in 2003 at Ozark.
Having achieved his goals at the high school level, Hunter felt he could do more, and the opportunity to coach at Northark presented itself. “I had always wanted to see if I could excel at the collegiate level,” he said. “The location, competition level, and my familiarity with Coach Thomason (I had 4 former high school players that were Pioneers) all made this position a perfect fit.”
College basketball brought new challenges. “With the addition of six more programs in our region, the recruiting base has broadened. Hunter explained. “The players’ level of performance, athleticism, and sheer size is now a factor to compete with other programs on our schedule and within our region. To overcome this, our recruiting base now usually includes players from multiple states making our junior college an attractive destination to bridge the gap to a four-year institution.”
The 1996 and 2003 Missouri Coach of the Year, Hunter is a 2009 inductee of the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. He was inducted into the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in 2019. According to their website, many opponents loathed-or loved the challenge of – playing his teams, which won and won big. He ends his career Northark career with a record of 180-94 and an overall 37-year record of 716-348.
“My coaching style has been labeled high-octane offense by others, very transition-oriented where we look offensively for scoring opportunities in the paint and at the arc,” Steve says. “Defensively we will press to speed up the game and look to create numerous more possessions to put points on the board. We averaged 88 ppg my first year, averaged 102 ppg one year and consistently were in the top ten in NJCAA D2 in 3 pointers made and in assists. Our style was player-friendly, fan-friendly and fun to watch and play.”
Coach Hunter is proud of the body of work spanning his career given the fact that junior college can sometimes be a “revolving door” as players are only with a team a year or two at a time. His system of play proved successful year after year as he recruited players who fit his style of play. His most treasured memory is having his son, Jordan at his side for 9 years as they built their relationship and shared the challenges that accompanied the position. Hunter said Jordan was not a “yes-man” and sometimes they butted heads, but that is what made them successful coaches.
Northark Athletic Director Bobby Howard is confident in Jordan’s abilities to lead the program. “He has enthusiasm and knowledge to continue the men's program to get to the highest level possible. He is also an excellent instructor and does his job professionally. I would like to thank Coach Steve Hunter for his time at Northark. His career here was very successful. He is a true professional educator on and off the court. The athletic department wishes him the best.”