Days after celebrating the Christmas holiday with his family, Gwyn led his Spartans to a 48-41victory over Langston Hughes in the championship game of the 17th annual Campbell Holiday Classic at Wills Gymnasium Saturday. The win gave Campbell a perfect 3-0 week and improved the Spartans’ record to 10-5 on the season.
However, that’s only part of the story.
Campbell’s 67-56 triumph over Carver-Atlanta in the opening round of the tournament, gave Gwyn his 400th career victory in 24 seasons as a head coach. It was a milestone moment for Gwyn who now has 402 wins over his illustrious career – 304 in 18 years at Campbell and 98 in six years at North Clayton.
“They say longevity is sometimes enjoyable,” Gwyn said. “So, you stick around long enough, and sometimes good things happen. We’ve had a pretty good program over the years, so it’s a milestone.
“It means you’ve really been doing it a long time. Certainly, to have been at Campbell for 18 years says a lot too. We’re kind of in the age now when a lot of folks jump around a lot. Me and (Campbell girls basketball) coach (Randy) McClure have both been here for quite a while. So, it means a lot that, even though I left one other school, I’ve been able to really stay here. It’s great to have that longevity and to know that people appreciate what I’ve been able to do with the program and with these students.”
According to McClure, who has helmed the Campbell girls’ team for more than a quarter-century, the administration was so eager to bring Gwyn on board as coach that they offered him the position twice. Gwyn led North Clayton to a state title in 1992, and Campbell offered him an opportunity to coach the Spartans at the end of the season.
Off the state championship success, Gwyn opted to remain at North Clayton the following season, but the Eagles completed the year with an average record. Despite North Clayton’s lack of success that year, Campbell’s administration offered Gwyn the boys’ basketball post again, which he accepted this time, and he hasn’t walked away since.
“He’s a good coach and a good person,” McClure said. “He’s a family guy who really cares about all of his players in and out of the classroom. He makes a commitment to them and demands the best from them.
“There’s a reason he has 400 wins. It’s because he has fun coaching and really enjoys the moments of the game. He also works hard at practice and at his craft and that effort pays off. The biggest compliment I could give to coach Gwyn is that if could send my son to play for somebody, it would be to play for him.”
Gwyn lived in Smyrna when he coached at North Clayton, so the opportunity to remain at Campbell was made easier since he’d get to watch and teach his children daily. It’s one of the reasons being at Campbell has been so special to Gwyn.
“My children all went and graduated here,” he said. ‘When I started, my youngest daughter was in kindergarten in the Campbell district. A few years ago I had the chance to coach my son, Justin, who played here. Both my daughters were cheerleaders here, so that means a little bit more. I’ve had some family history here.
“Once my children started in this district I didn’t want to move around a whole lot. I wanted something more stable for my family.”
Some of Gwyn’s special moments at Campbell include taking the team to the state final four in 2000 and finishing the season with “25 or 26 wins,” according to Gwyn. He also enjoyed having the opportunity to coach former Campbell standout Mike Stringer.
“The final four year of 2000 was special and was probably the biggest signature moment in terms of how much we accomplished that year as a team,” Gwyn said. “Going along with that, Mike Stringer was on that final four team. He was a three-time all-state player, so it was pretty special getting a chance to coach him.”
Not wanting the distraction of reaching 400 career wins to affect his team, Gwyn was excited the team managed to collect the milestone on the first day of the Classic. Getting it at home was an added bonus.
“You certainly would like to get it anytime time you can get it, but to have it at home is special, “ he said. “If it can give our team a little bit of a push and a little bit of incentive I think that would be good for us too.”
Celebrating the accomplishment would have to wait, however, as Gwyn is more focused on the season.
“We know as coaches and how we are sometimes that we probably won’t reflect on it until much later,” Gwyn said. “It’s kind of lo-key, and I’ll probably reflect on it more when I look back after it’s over.
“That’s probably when I’ll look back and kind of just say, ‘Wow, it’s been a long time.’”