Hunter Dickinson had just scored a career-high 33 points in his win over Michigan when he went to his post-game press conference. But when asked about the adjustments he made between Michigan’s first men’s basketball game against the Spartans and that night, the sophomore quickly took his attention away.
Without hesitation Dickinson attributed it to Chris Hunter. A few minutes later, when asked a similar question, assistant head coach Phil Martelli did the same.
Lost in the Michigan coach Giovanni Howard’s shuffle, which was dismissed from five games, and after Martelli became acting head coach, Howard’s absence left room on the bench. Hunter, Raamahi’s director of basketball, was appointed to this third assistant coaching position and work with the great people of Michigan – a role usually played by Howard.
For Hunter, who has been working since 2014, the temporary rise has been a long wait.
After four years of playing in Michigan, Hunter has jumped in professional leagues, from Poland to Belgium to NBA League D – now League G – to a brief stint in the NBA. But in 2014, after eight years on the move, it was time to settle down and aim for a new goal: to become the head coach of Division I.
Around the same time, former Michigan coach John Bailey had a vacancy to fill his support staff. Hunter never played for Beilein, he was highly recommended, and as a Michigan graduate with professional experience, he was the perfect choice. After several interviews, Bailein offered Hunter the role of program director, and he agreed.
“Really bright young man,” Bailey told The Daily. “And after one or two interviews it was easy because I knew he would contact our players. He had some experience in Michigan, knew the campus, knew the environment, knew what we were going to look for, and played professionally.
“… You don’t know how your staff will work at the time, but it turned out to be for me, my staff and Michigan in general.”
Three years later Beilein had a few more discoveries. Assistants Jeff Meyer and Billy Donlan left the program, leaving him with two key employees. Hunter was considered, his goal being to become a head coach – in his alma mater, no less – within reach.
But Bailen went in a different direction, hiring outsiders Luke Yaklich and DeAndre Haynes. Hunter, however, was promoted to director of basketball.
“Every time we hired someone, we didn’t hire someone with a resume like that,” Bailein said. “Everyone was an assistant for a few years before we hired them, and he just broke in at the time. He understands patience in this matter. And I think he also understands that Michigan is a pretty good place to be the director of basketball (operations). “
According to Bailey, ten years ago, the privileges of a basketball director were much more limited. They could never be on the floor during training and were not even allowed to participate in basketball-related decisions.
However, in Hunter’s time in this position, restrictions were relaxed. Hunter has always had the right to vote at staff meetings and over the past couple of years has been able to participate in practice due to changes in COVID-related rules.
“We can have conversations with coaches, and we bring our energy and enthusiasm to what’s going on in practice, and we encourage and the like,” Hunter told The Daily. “So, from day to day we are here as much as the coaches. And it’s good that it’s at meetings of our coaches and staffs, everyone has the right to vote, whether you’re an assistant coach or you’re a video coordinator, I, Jay Smith, every staff really has a voice. ”
Hunter was even given the opportunity to be replaced as an assistant from time to time. During the change of coaching staff, he from time to time came to practice on the court and on the set. However, he never served as an assistant during the game.
Three weeks ago.
After the Feb. 20 post-match brawl in Wisconsin, the idea of replacing him as an assistant was a long way off for Hunter. His main focus was on taking care of all his players. But it would be bad for him to say that it did not occur to him.
He found out about it the next day, starting a busy two weeks for Hunter. He continued to perform all of his usual duties as director of basketball, and also assumed additional responsibilities as assistant coach. These included training sessions, assisting Martelli in substitution schemes during games and strengthening the game plan for players during time-outs.
Hunter was well prepared, however. It was not the first time he had exercised. And although his responsibilities in the game were expanded, it was not a completely unfamiliar territory for him; he’s still on the bench for every game, even if he’s not a coach, only with a smaller role.
“It was something like what I felt during my time here,” Hunter said. “Just being around a lot of coaches, understanding what I know and what I’m doing, (it was) pretty easy, pretty easy to be able to go in there and fit in where I need to help.”
In preparation, Hunter talked to Howard to make sure he maintained consistency in Howard’s absence; he would hold that position for only two weeks, and his job was not to “invent the wheel,” as he put it.
But for the most part, coaching the big ones was just coming from his Michigan experience and what he knew. Even if he is not allowed on the court to practice, he still watches. He studies film, like coaches, and draws on four years of college acting experience and eight years of professional experience.
“When he’s on the court and explaining to the players, he’s as good as they are,” Bailein said. “And because he played, but some guys can play and can’t explain it. He can break it for the people. ”
However, his most important experience came last season. COVID-19 rules limited the number of student managers allowed on the practice court, and instead teams were allowed to have two additional coaches on the floor. So Hunter gained a whole season of coaching experience along with the same staff he worked with during his two-week temporary stay.
“I think last year was definitely a kind of prelude to that opportunity,” Hunter said. “I worked hand in hand with (Howard) and helped him ease what he wanted to do in practice last year. … Of course, last year, being a part of it day by day, this transition has definitely become smooth. ”
Within two weeks Hunter had become an almost full-fledged assistant coach. The scouts ’assignments for future rivals were still left to Michigan’s staff assistants, but Hunter took over the rest. And for those whose goal is to become a higher education assistant, this experience is invaluable.
As Bailein noted, when discussing the hiring of Yaklich and Haynes, the main programs often look for assistants with previous coaching experience. The hunter is very limited, and only in a temporary role. But although he only served two weeks as an assistant in the season, he now has something he can point to in an interview. He compiles his resume in preparation for the next call. Maybe it will even be Michigan.
“Sometimes if you have promising guys working on different support roles, sometimes it’s important that you’ve never coached before – you don’t have coaching experience,” Hunter said. “So now, in these positions … I did everything you had to do in those intervals to say, ‘Hey, he has the experience to do that.’ ”
For Hunter, this two-week job was just a stepping stone to what he hopes will be a long coaching career. And although the goal now is to become an assistant, some think he can reach even greater heights.
“He’s a head coach who expects that to happen at some point because he has the qualities you’re looking for,” Bailein said. “He has a big presence. He can teach. He communicates with everyone.
“I know he has a bright future.”