We Will All Miss You, Dr. Hunt…

I can still hear the bellowing old guy from just behind my right ear. He resembled a cross between Burl Ives, Santa Claus, and anybody’s cuddly grandfather. The man wore a gold golf shirt and suspenders, with a litany of VCU buttons crawling up the elastic. He carried a certain twinkle in his eye, the kind of spark that drew you in. He was gracious with my fiance, and sweet with my daughter. You knew this guy was full of positivity and warmth and light and you wanted to be around him.

But make no mistake, when a basketball official made a questionable call against the home team, the fiery part of that spark emerged.

“Come on…….cooommmeee oooonnnnnnn! Gracious! COME! ON!”

That was as profane as Dr. Gene Hunt would allow himself to get, but it was plenty harsh, strong enough to draw the ire of his wife Honey.

“Oh sit down and watch the game Gene,” she would fire. It was as ironic as it was effective, and certainly hilarious. You always know when Honey Hunt means business. That sweet woman is as gentle as a spring breeze, but she would stare down Dracula.

Dr. Gene Hunt, whose jersey would hang from the Siegel Center rafters if he were a VCU player, passed away last night after a long illness, and that’s sad.

***

I’m going to spare the cheap “cheering from heaven” and “God got the greatest Rams fan” metaphors. They don’t do Dr. Hunt justice. We shared arenas from Charleston to Wilmington, Buffalo to Boston, and San Juan to San Antonio. There was more than one bus ride to Harrisonburg. Every single time I saw that man, and the woman by his side, I smiled. Dr. Hunt always had something uplifting to say, even if it was his sharp, self-deprecating humor. Gene Hunt didn’t have bad days, only variations of good days.

The man knew his basketball, but he never tried to know too much. He would ask questions and we would talk, exchanging viewpoints and opinions and facts. I knew when to pay attention, too. Every time he opened a conversation with “Let me tell you something…” and pointed his index finger, I knew to shut up. Being around that man was simply joyous. Even after I traded my seats next to him for my seat to Robby, I made it a point to bring him a copy of the night’s game notes, both teams. Dr. Hunt enjoyed those when we sat together, and he was damn sure going to enjoy them when we didn’t.

He cared, truly cared, and it was not impacted by wins and losses. He was relentlessly positive, giving of himself, and only wanted the best things for everybody associated with the program. He didn’t have time for drama or agendas. Gene Hunt was interested in one thing: an all-encompassing greatness for VCU athletics.

No, VCU did not lose its greatest fan. Sports lost what a fan should be.

Here’s what I’d like you to do, my humble request in memory of Dr. Gene Hunt, my show of respect to a man that has earned more than he will receive: ask people around you about their interactions with Dr. Hunt and pay attention to the answers. You will be a better fan, and a better human.

7 thoughts on “We Will All Miss You, Dr. Hunt…

  1. I met Dr. Hunt 46 years ago this January when I he helped me when accepting my transfer hours to VCU. I knew immediately how kind a man he was as he treated you as an equal. He demonstrated not only professionalism but made you know that you made the right decision in coming to VCU. I have never forgotten his basic goodness as a wonderful human being. I was fortunate to reconnect with Dr. Hunt during the Final 4 and we spent some quality time discussing how far VCU had come not only in basketball but more importantly in various academic disciplines. He quickly rattled off a number of academic accomplishments and standings. We talked about the natural “high” of experiencing the Final 4. He added something to the experience to make it even better. I will never forget this wonderful man. He was one of VCU’s finest!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have known these wonderful people, he and Honey, for many a year. I will always treasure our many conversations at away games. Most recently at San Juan and while he rode his little scooter as he shopped at Costco. God Bless and God speed Dr Hunt you will be missed but never forgotten.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I rarely leave comments here, but I think this would be a good place for one.

    Let me start out by saying that Dr. Hunt didn’t know who I was, and I only knew him through things I’d hear. I figured it out after seeing him at so many functions. We’ve only spoken once (In line at a grand opening of Dick’s to get Eric Maynor’s autograph), but my “story” happens a few years back. It’s become one of my favorite moments in my life, and I could tell, even though he had 60+ more years of memories, it was his as well.

    The day was April 2nd, 2011 in Houston, TX. Me and my friends got on the bus from the hotel to head to the game vs Butler. There was a line of them, we chose one and got on. Dr. Hunt and his wife were sitting in the first seat, I sat across from them. We headed off to the stadium, and some of you may or may not know this, but we got a police escort. Here I am, starring out the window watching a group of police motorcycles help us navigate through the traffic. I happen to turn around in Dr. Hunt’s direction and I see him say, with a smile that would rival a kid on Christmas morning – “This is the coolest thing I’ve ever seen.”

    And it was.

    RIP.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Mike, I hesitate to leave a comment, since your words are so perfect, but, since you ask…I met Dr. Hunt in NYC at my first away game. Mark and I had season tickets for a few years, but were dabbling in becoming die-hard, travel anywhere, fans. We walked into the Garden and there were Gene and Honey, first in line to get in! I was amazed when he remembered Mark as a student (so, so long ago!). It was so great for us, since we had yet to meet all of the other VCU fans who would ultimately become part of our extended family. The 15 minutes spent chatting with them and meeting others who had come to greet the Hunts sealed the deal for us. For me, Dr. Hunt will always be a touchstone for VCU basketball support.

    RIP Dr. Hunt, your work here is done – it is now left to the rest of us to carry on the love and support that you so faithfully modeled.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dr. Hunt touched all of us. We were former students and long time fans. I remember him in the Business School in 1972 my Freshman year smiling and greeting everyone. I remember him at the basketball games when Chuck Noe was the coach at the Franklin Street Gym smiling and greeting everyone. I remember him smiling and greeting everyone in Houston at the Final Four. He never changed. He was a Happy Man. I even remember him at Zacharias Ganey coming up to me and smiling and greeting me saying man you have lost some weight. I said yeah 50 pounds so far. He responded I want to do the same so I can get healthy in order to keep active and travel to see the Rams for many years to come. The last time I saw him was in a wheelchair at the Siegel Center. He was not well but he managed to smile and greet me to the best of his ability. He will be missed. What a wonderful man he was. God Bless Him and Honey. Dr. Hunt is looking down on all of us and saving ” Go Rams” while he is smiling.

    Like

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