Veteran Ozark basketball coach Hunter steps down

Veteran Ozark basketball coach Hunter steps down

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Veteran Ozark basketball coach Hunter steps down

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Half of Steve Hunter’s 28 years as a head coach have come on the bench of the Ozark Tigers.

But Wednesday, after resigning his post as the boys basketball coach at Ozark, Hunter left the door open for more coaching years down the road.

“If there’s an opportunity to presents itself down the road, maybe I’ll take a look,” Hunter said.

Hunter, 52, will remain as assistant principal at the school after a 14-year run as its coach, averaging exactly 20 wins a season with the Tigers and winning a state title in 2003.

“Steve is really an icon to basketball in southwest Missouri,” Ozark athletic director Mark Caballero said. “He’s an ambassador, he helps young coaches become the coaches he wants to be, and he helps young players become men they want to be.”

Caballero is also leaving Ozark to take the AD job at Jefferson City after the school year.

Hunter spent 14 combined seasons at Strother (Okla.), West Plains and Hartville before coming to the Christian County school. Until 2012, Hunter had a streak of 20 straight winning seasons at three different stops.

This past year, Ozark made the finals of the Greenwood Blue and Gold Tournament, and finished 16-12. The team will lose seniors Tyler Clanton, Jakob Neidig and Brett Krisik.

“I thought we had a real solid team this year,” Hunter said. “We had three seniors that kind of grew up with my (senior) daughter and I wanted to see them through. Is there ever a good time? I don’t know.”

Hunter’s career coaching record is 536-254 (.678). He said he’s been thinking about stepping away for a few years and was waiting until the right time.

Hunter said he likely will not be involved in the hiring process for his replacement, and said he understands the district would like to have an AD in place at its April 16 school board meeting.

“I’m sure there’s going to be a lot of applicants for this job,” Caballero said. “One, because it’s Ozark, and two, there is such a tradition here. I think any coach that wants to be involved in a big-time program would be interested in a job like this.”

The district is in a transitional period, not just in athletics. In addition, district superintendent Gordon Pace is retiring this summer.

With a 64-18 record in the Blue and Gold, Hunter has the most coaching wins in the event’s 67 years. The coaching job at Hunter’s alma mater, Glendale, also is open. Sean Williamson stepped down as coach of the Falcons last month.

In other coaching news, Marshfield’s JC Carter is leaving his post to take an assistant coaching position with the women’s team at Angelo State in Texas, an NCAA Division II school. Carter was with the Jays for two seasons, sharing Central Ozark Conference Small Division titles each year.

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