There is no better, no more American story than the one that ended with a perfect shot by a son and a hard fall by his dad in March Madness’ second round. Sure, Georgia State’s Cinderella slipper got crushed Sunday by Xavier in the round of 32. But who expected the Panthers to make it that far anyway? Fourteen seeds don’t make it to the Sweet 16, but we watch them because they give us feel-good stories of triumph over unlikely odds, which is what March Madness, at least the early rounds, are all about.
And that’s what brings us to the formal introduction you've not yet had. America, meet the Hunters: Georgia State head coach Ron, his wife Amy and children RJ -- GSU’s star point guard -- and his sister, Jasmine.
They’re a basketball family in the age of Blackish: They’re telegenic, they’re inter-ethnic and they’re winning. Ron and RJ are a millennial Jelly Bean and Kobe. OK, that’s taking it too far, but name the last father-son duo to capture the sports world’s imagination? Baseball’s Ken Griffey Jr. and Sr. had a brief stint as manager/player with the Mariners but that was 20 years ago and baseball’s popularity was already falling. Football isn't even set up for this kind of situation, unless you’re Snoop Dogg and newly-signed UCLA recruit Cordell Broadus (and they already had their own reality show). Not since Earl Sr. and Tiger has there been a father-son duo this fun to watch. And let’s face it: not even the Master’s is March Madness in terms of excitement.
America didn't notice Ron until he popped his Achilles tendon celebrating his win in this year’s Sun Belt Conference tourney. That got his and RJ's tickets to the big dance punched, where they followed up with this performance: RJ putting up a behind-the-stripe dagger that that took Georgia State into the round of 32 over powerhouse #3 seed Baylor.
But the Hunters’ basketball accomplishments stretch back further. In his first head coaching job he led IUPUI out of the NAIA and into Division I basketball and followed it up by taking the team to its first and only March Madness appearance in ‘03. His overall head coaching record is 361-265, meaning he’s won nearly 60 percent of his games for the mathematically challenged. That’s not counting 18 wins vacated by the NCAA in the 03-04 season. Ron Hunter is the reigning Sun Belt Coach of the Year; RJ, a pure shooter, is the reigning, two-time Sun Belt Player of the Year.
And no one could have any problem with how Ron Hunter expressed his feelings for his son and the ride they took together this season. Teary-eyed. Genuine. Crying for a father-son victory, not over the loss to Xavier.
After the shot against Baylor, there’s already plenty of speculation that he’ll wind up in the NBA next season instead of back in his dad’s starting five.
The only problem we have with that is it means we won't get more of this awesome twosome for March Madness 2016.