By Moses Brown
Legendary basketball Coach George E Glymph was born December 22, 1942 in Union County, South Carolina. His family moved to Columbia when George was the age of three. He graduated from Booker T Washington High School in 1961. He then attended Benedict College, graduating in 1965.
An event that took place early in George’s college career- served as motivation for his career in teaching and coaching. Following an excellent high school basketball career, George felt that he would be able to continue playing basketball in college. He entered Benedict College on an Academic Scholarship, but was sure that his basketball game was strong enough to contribute to the Varsity team. On the first night of tryouts, the players scrimmaged and George had an excellent night, putting 38 points on the board. The next two nights George was held out of the scrimmage and then was unceremoniously cut from the team. The Coach told him that the only thing he could do was shoot and that was not good enough.
George was devastated- but used this rejection as motivation to continue to work on his game. He gained a small measure of revenge while playing on a intramural squad facing the Varsity. The team also featured Bob McCullough, a transfer student sitting out the year. Bob was an outstanding talent who would lead the Nation in Scoring the following season. But in the game against the Varsity- Bob became the facilitator and George torched the Varsity with a 42 point effort– and dropped ten “dimes’ for good measure. The Coach then relented and offered George a spot on the Varsity team, but his pride wouldn’t allow him to except. He continued his focus on academics, graduating with Honors and receiving a Degree in Mathematics .
After College Georges’ original plan was to pursue a Post Graduate Degree in Architecture and then join his father in his Construction Business. The two Schools with the best programs in Architecture were the University of South Carolina and Clemson; but in the mid-sixties, they were not actively recruiting minorities for any of their programs. South Carolina State also had a program but in the end this “Dream” would become deferred as his true calling awaited in the field of Education. Mr. Glymph’s career started a year later when he served as a volunteer- working with his good friend and fellow Benedict alumnus Ben Trapp at at C.A. Johnson High School. A year later he returned to his Alma Mater, Booker T Washington – when he was hired as an Assistant Coach under Coach Carl Williams.
In the Columbia Midlands Court Ordered School desegregation was in full affect. When the 1970/71 school year commenced- Mr. Glymph was reassigned to Eau Claire High School, as a Math teacher and Assistant Basketball Coach. Wholesale changes were taking place in the faculty and staff – as a phenomenon known as “white flight” took place — the exodus of large numbers of white families who moved to suburban school districts (Irmo/Spring Valley). This rapid transition for a High School with a 75/25% White /Black ratio – to the exact opposite four years later- contributed to an environment that often bordered on chaos . . . When Coach Glymph arrived, many on the faculty labeled many of the Black students, “incorrigible”- beyond the reach of the teachers or administrators. Coach Glymph rebuked this mentality and set-out on a one-man crusade to prove that his Students (I was one of them) could be successful through Academics as well as Athletics. Over the years his impact on the lives of thousands of students – mentored under him at Eau Claire is indisputable .
At Eau Claire, Coach Glymph started out serving as an assistant coach on the varsity basketball team- and as head coach of the “B-Squad” (ninth graders) team. In his third year as assistant basketball coach to head coach Les Evans — the Shamrock Basketball team won the State Championship (game played at Carolina Coliseum) – defeating Middleton High School from Charleston- they were defending State Champions – riding a 54 game winning streak. The team was anchored by “Superstar” Nate Davis – (ably assisted by Ben Taylor, & sharp shooters Steve Ashe and Willie Crumpton) — who then starred at the University of South Carolina before embarking on a lengthy Professional Basketball Career in Spain.
Two years later, (1975/76) Coach Glymph was named head coach of the Eau Claire Varsity basketball team. The expectations of immediate success was sky high– but the first year came to a disappointing conclusion – with a 6-16 record. Never to be deterred – Coach Glymph used it as a learning experience. While viewing game film from the season the Coach realized that the teams downfall was its inability to close out games. He realized that these were problems could be fixed – and fix them he did. That first season would be the only losing season he would endure- in his twenty-five year tenure as the Head Basketball Coach at Eau Claire High School. The 1977 team (Bryant Hunt- Andre “Charlie Hills” – McKinley “Clutch” Davis- Reggie Mack– 77-78-79- 80 teams) made the State Playoffs – which came to be an expectation for the Eau Claire Basketball Program. Coach Glymph’s 1982 team – anchored by standouts Danny Pearson and Glenn McCants- was his first team to play for a State Championship. That team lost to a powerful Orangeburg-Wilkerson squad in “overtime”.
Ironically, some of Coach Glymph’s most talented teams did not win a State Title. His 1987 & 88 Shamrock teams were led by two future University of South Carolina Gamecocks– Joe Rhett and Barry Manning. But their timing was not good: arch-rival Lower Richland, HS featured future NBA players – 7- foot Stanley Roberts and Jo Jo English, among others. This Lower Richland team won back-to-back State Championships in 1987 & 88. The 1987 Eau Claire team won the Prestigious Beach Ball Tournament- including a victory over Kenny Anderson and Archbishop Malloy- but were unable to get past Lower Richland to win the State Title. The 1988 Eau Claire team lost three games all year — all to Lower Richland.
The 1989 season would prove to be memorable as a George Glymph coached team won its firs State Championship. In the mid-nineties the Shamrocks established a mini-dynasty – winning State Titles in 1994 and 95. Some of the “Star” Players from those teams were Thaddeous Delaney , Marion Busby, Terry Bynum, Derrick Carroll. Following closely thereafter — a precocious youngster arrived on campus– Jermaine O’Neal stood 6’11”, and would have a major impact on the fortunes of Eau Claire HS, as well as Coach Glymph’s future in basketball. Jermaine O’Neal and the Shamrocks won State Championships in his freshman, sophomore, and junior seasons. The Shamrocks were heavy favorites to win four-in-a-row- but sometimes things don’t go according to script. That year Eau Claire was upset in the Upper State finals.
Jermaine O’Neal- a McDonald’s All American, decided to skip college, and entered the 1996 NBA draft. He was selected by the Portland Trailblazers- with the 17th pick of the first round– becoming the first Eau Claire basketball player to make an NBA roster. In Jermaine’s second season- Coach Glymph was offered an assistant coaching job with the Trailblazers. He resigned his position at Eau Claire and make the huge-leap into Professional Basketball. Coach Glymph’s first year in Portland did not go well. He did not feel welcome by the Coaching staff or anyone else in the Organization: was sarcastically referred to as a glorified babysitter. After the season, his contract was terminated.
His next foray into the professional coaching ranks occurred when the management of the Indiana Pacers- head Coach Isaiah Thomas and General Manager Donnie Walsh (former assistant coach at USC under Coach Frank McGuire) arranged a workout at Eau Claire HS, for restricted free-agent, Jermaine O’Neal. Coach Glymph worked Jermaine out under the watchful eye of Thomas and Walsh. After the workout Isaiah told Coach Glymph that he was impressed with what he witnessed – both from the player and the coach. Indiana brokered a trade that that brought Jermaine O’Neal to Indiana – and also offered a contract to Coach Glymph to join him with the Pacers. Coach Glymph was named director of Player Development- and Jermaine flourished in Indiana– becoming a five-time All Star.
Later Isaiah Thomas was hired as the President of Basketball Operations for the New York Knicks, and one of his first hires was George Glymph. Isaiah’s five years in New York were filled with controversy- and the Knicks struggled. But Coach Glymph was widely praised for the work he did in the development of teams young players. After five seasons in New York, Isaiah Thomas’s contract was terminated– the Knicks retained Coach Glymph as a basketball consultant and scout working from his home in Columbia. Coach Glymph is enjoying retirement, but his passion for the game has not waned. He remains involved in the game; his grandson Trent is a junior at Ridgeview HS- and he volunteers his time assisting the Ridgeview coaches. He also helps out with the Eau Claire girls, the C.A. Johnson boys’ and Lower Richland boys’ teams.
On a personal note, Coach Glymph acknowledged that he has had the unconditional support of his lovely wife Betty- throughout his career, they met at Benedict and married after his sophomore year. She is also a Columbia native – and a graduate of C.A. Johnson HS. The couple have two children, son Michael and daughter Tiffani.
Over his career, Coach Glymph has over 500 wins and five state Championships on his resume’. He has been inducted into five Halls of Fame — including the Richland District One Hall of Fame- the South Carolina Black Hall of Fame- the State of South Carolina Athletic Hall of Fame – and the Benedict College Athletic Hall of Fame. His greatest honor occurred on Sunday August 30th 2009 – when Eau Claire High School named its new gym the “George E Glymph Arena” . Coach Glymph was truly moved by this special recognition– but everyone in the Eau Claire Community knows its a honor that he richly deserves– hundreds were present – to witness a Living Legend– “Immortalized”.