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Talking Grammer, Ep. 17: Coaching veteran, Clovis High graduate Dick Hunsaker

In Episode 17, I had a long talk with the man I consider the New Mexico coach who never was.

Dick Hunsaker is a Clovis High graduate who has played for or coached with the likes of Don Haskins, Neil McCarthy and Rick Majerus while also having connections with Steve Alford and Craig Neal. Heck, he was even once a part of a summer camp with Bob King and Norm Ellenberger.

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Hunsaker talks about all those connections and spending a week observing this year’s UNM Lobos and head coach Paul Weir. He was also the keynote speaker at a UNM high school coaches clinic before he went back to Utah, where he lives.

Here is a rundown of the podcast for Episode 17:

• 6:30 – Conversation starts with Dick Hunsaker, including talk of his time at Clovis High School and the influences on him there.

“I loved the game and was very fortunate to have some terrific coaches through high school. The names that come out were Steve White and Jimmy Joe Robinson coached me as a senior. But I developed a special relationship with Brooks Jennings (the longtime Clovis athletic director and statewide high school basketball official), who really was that father figure and, to this day, was probably that person my heart feels closest to in the game of basketball and as a person.”

• 10:55 – On one of New Mexico’s all-time great basketball players, Bubba Jennings:

“Bubba Jennings is truly one of the greatest shooters in the history of basketball. He was incredible. His impact on the play, and the style, and the toughness, intelligence — he still is the standard of anyone I have ever come across. And I’ve been blessed to come across many great players, and special players. But he is the standard of a dedicated and committed player.”

• 13:10 – Playing for Don Haskins at UTEP:

“Coach Haskins probably imprinted my coaching philosophy more than anyone.”

• 18:30 – Playing for then coaching with Neil McCarthy at Weber State:

“Neil was a fantastic teacher of the game. His free throw system that I borrowed and tweaked, today is taught universal through every level.”

• 21:45 – Starting to work with Majerus at Ball State:

“Sometimes winning is a relief versus being fun and exuberant. That was one of those times that winning was just so fun. Sometimes you pinched yourself to realize you’re actually pulling this off.”

• 26:30 – On his 1989-90 Ball State team that went to the Sweet 16 vs. UNLV, nearly beating the Runnin’ Rebels.

• 30:00 – Coached Craig Neal in the CBA:

“I used to lean on Craig to help me with the opponents because of his familiarity with the league and he knew the opposition’s coach’s systems and plays inside and out. He is a fantastic basketball mind.”

• 32:45 – Replacing Steve Alford at Manchester College:

“Without Steve’s blessing, I don’t believe I would have been coaching at Manchester College. Steve has such fantastic instincts as a coach. I think his greatest strengths … Steve just has some fantastic abilities and instincts and feel that have led to him being one of the greatest coaches in the game.”

• 38:40 – On Majerus becoming larger than life:

“Rick was a real guy. Rick became bigger than life. … If there was a clinic going on in 2000, and at that time Bobby Knight, Mike Krzyzewski, Rick Pitino and Rick Majerus were all speaking, 80 percent of that crowd is going to be in the Majerus gym listening to him. He was that big and had that big of an impact on the game. Nobody could combine the personality, the humor and the incredible knowledge that Rick had.”

• 43:05 – Eating at Sadie’s, Majerus’ favorite Albuquerque restaurant:

“He let the team sleep in. They were going to leave around noonish. He and I got up and flew out about 8:30 a.m. and that is exactly why we flew out. We went directly to Sadie’s first for breakfast.”

• 47:00 – On his building the Utah Valley program into a WAC champion:

“Winning the WAC that first year was arguably the biggest achievement of my career.”

• 50:00 – Getting to know Paul Weir and watching his practices:

“If you come in and are going to explain the weaknesses or the loopholes of what he’s trying to achieve or do with his team, I think he’s going to be two or three steps ahead of you. He knows what his objective is.”

For an archive of all 17 episodes of the Talking Grammer podcast, CLICK HERE.

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