Remembering a Legend: Players, colleagues remember Coach Sweat
by Robert Joseph Baker | April 22, 2015 3:27 am
Last Updated: April 21, 2015 at 8:15 pm
Gunter Sweat was more than just a coach for his players at Manning Training School, Scott’s Branch High School and Manning High School.
“He was really a father-figure to his players,” said fellow Coach John Franklin Thames. “He always put them first. He had love for them, but it was a tough love situation. He secured their loyalty because they knew he would always be loyal to them.”
Sweat, husband of the Rev. Ethel Whack Sweat, died Monday, April 20, 2015, at Tuomey Regional Medical Center in Sumter.
“It’s a great loss for Clarendon County and for Manning,” Thames said. “He had retired some time back, but his players always kept in touch with him.”
One such player was Andre Reyes, who played for Sweat from 1984-86. Reyes had transferred from Scott’s Branch High School to become a Monarch for his junior and senior years.
“Coach Gunter Sweat was a good man,” said Reyes, who ultimately played for the University of Maryland after graduation. “He taught me a lot about the game of basketball, and even more about life.”
“I was honored to play for him,” Reyes said. “The two years I played for him, we won a few games, a summer camp championship and a conference championship. The advice he gave me in those two years have lasted for 30.”
Mack Hilton Jr. played for Sweat from 1975-76.
“He was the only coach that I had as a player,” Hilton said. “He was one of the people so important in me being where I am today. He always looked out for his players, as players an d as people. I know that he will be missed dearly.”
Basketball was always a major factor in Sweat’s own life. He told The Manning Times in 2012 that he played “all positions” as a seventh-grade student at Paxville Elementary School. He later became a shooting guard and forward at Manning Training School.
During his senior year there, he was the captain of the basketball team.
He always wanted, he said, to come back to Manning and coach basketball.
“It was always my dream,” he said. “I have always loved basketball.”
Thames said he and Sweat had a similar approach to coaching. Both stressed academics for their players.
“If you didn’t succeed in the classroom, you couldn’t succeed on the field,” Sweat said in 2012. “And when we lost, I would stress to my players that that was the pathway to success. You learned from your losses.”
Such was Sweat’s commitment to his player’s academic prowess that he had teachers inform him throughout the year if there were any problems with his players.
“I gave forms at the beginning of the year to the teachers, and I wanted to know, academically or disciplinary, if there were any problems,” Sweat said.
Sweat’s commitment paid off several times, with his seventh- and eighth-grade players at Scott’s Brach Elementary School winning a conference title in 1965, finishing the season with a nearly perfect 10-2 record.
He spent two years after this victory serving in Vietnam, and then returned to Manning, where he coached the Manning Middle School team to conference and tournament championships.
During his career, he was named five times as the AAA Region Coach of the Year and twice as the 1A Region Coach of the Year. He as the first head coach of any Monarchs sport to have a team play for a state championship
“He made it all the way to state once and then lost it on a technicality,” said Thames, shaking his head. “I don’t remember now what the technicality was, but it was something very silly.”
The Manning branch of the NAACP recognized Sweat in 1989 for his guidance, leadership, direction and service to the youth of Clarendon County. Nearly 20 years later, the Brotherhood Black River Missionary Baptist Association honored him with a plaque, recognizing 30 years of leadership as a mentor for the young men of Clarendon County.
Ultimately, he won 533 of the 743 games he coached during his career. He was inducted into the Clarendon County Athletics Hall of Fame in 2012.
“I was surprised and humbled,” he said of the honor. “None of this would have been possible without the tremendous support of y wife. She has been very supportive in all aspects of my life. She kept stats. She was our cheerleader. She was super coach.”
Services for Sweat will be held Saturday at a time and location to be determined. Manninglive.com will update with that information when we have it.