August 08, 2005

Ex-LSU coach Gunter had passion for hoops

BATON ROUGE — Sue Gunter was a gym rat before that was a basketball term.

If there was a gymnasium or a basketball goal of any type around Walnut Grove, Miss., the former LSU women's coach and childhood friend Carla Lowry found it.

"In rural Mississippi, there wasn't a lot to do, so we'd go play basketball," Lowry said when Gunter was introduced as one of the next inductees to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame last April in a news conference at the men's Final Four in St. Louis.

"We were gym rats before we knew what that meant," Lowry said.

Gunter, who died Thursday morning after an 18-month bout with emphysema, is in the Naismith and Women's basketball halls of fame as well as the Louisiana and Mississippi halls for her coaching.

"Probably Sue's greatest legacy was her ability to form relationships with her players and coaches," said Lowry, who also became a coach. "That builds tremendous loyalty in her players."

"You'll be shocked at the number of girls who played for her who will be there (at the funeral)," former LSU men's basketball coach Dale Brown said. "And they won't just be there to wear a nice dress. Sue was special to everyone she coached. They've lost a lovely lady."

Gunter was 442-221 as LSU's women's coach from 1982 through 2004. Brown was right down the hall of the Pete Maravich Assembly Center for many of those years as men's coach from 1972 through 1997.

"We worked 15 years together, and there was never one ounce of conflict," Brown said Thursday.

"The legacy she left is the relationships she had with people," said LSU basketball coach John Brady, who spoke on Gunter's behalf last month when she was inducted into the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame in Natchitoches. "It's been a privilege for me to work with her.

"LSU, our state, the coaching profession, and our fans will miss a wonderful lady, coach and person in Sue Gunter. I am grateful to have known her and to have worked with her."

Gunter finished as the third-winningest women's coach in history in 2004 with a 708-308 record.

"Sue was definitely one of the pioneers of women's collegiate basketball," said Tennessee women's coach Pat Summitt, who leads all of college basketball — men and women — in wins with 882. "She was one of my mentors. I learned so much from Sue about the X's and O's of the game of basketball. But more importantly, she taught me about the delicate balance of coaching and teaching the game and the value of great player-coach relationships."

Summitt played for Gunter on the 1980 U.S. Olympic team.

"She made playing basketball fun due to her ability to connect with her players," Summitt said. "Personally, I am going to miss her tremendously, and I know the game is going to miss her."

Women's coaches throughout the country spoke of Gunter after her death.

"Personally, I feel like I lost my best friend," Georgia coach Andy Landers said. "Basketball lost one of its heroes. She is legendary."

Said former Auburn coach Joe Ciampi: "Sue was one of the keystones of women's basketball. She was a role model for all players and coaches to use. She had the ability to be a great competitor on the court as well as have great compassion for her players and fellow coaches."

Gunter coached at Middle Tennessee and Stephen F. Austin before LSU.

"A lot of the things you see today in the game of women's basketball are due to a large price earlier paid by people such as Sue Gunter," Texas Tech coach Marsha Sharp said.

"Sue's passing is a great loss for our sport and a personal loss of a close friend," Texas coach Jody Conradt said.

"Just sadness, that was my first thought," said national champion Baylor coach Kim Mulkey-Robertson, a former Louisiana Tech assistant from Hammond.

"When you look at Sue's record and all the accomplishments throughout her career, it's easy to say that we have lost a great coach," Ohio State coach Jim Foster said. "But in reality, we have lost a better person."

Gunter's funeral services

BATON ROUGE — Funeral arrangements have been set for the late Hall of Fame coach Sue Gunter, who passed away on Thursday at the age of 66.

A visitation will be held today from 4-6 p.m. at Rabenhorst Funeral Home on Government Street in Baton Rouge. There will be a second visitation on Monday from 1-3 p.m. at the First United Methodist Church on North Boulevard in Baton Rouge.

Services will then be at the church at 3 p.m. on Monday. Both visitations and the service are open to the public.

Gunter’s body will then be moved to Walnut Grove, Miss., where a second service will be held on Tuesday. She will then be laid to rest next to her parents at Mount Zion Cemetery.

Friends and family of Gunter have asked that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the Sue Gunter Fund or the Alzheimer Services of the Capital Area.

Arrangements for the Sue Gunter Fund can be made by contacting the LSU Women’s Basketball office at (225) 578-6643 or P.O. Box 25095, Baton Rouge, LA 70894. The Alzheimer Services of the Capital Area can be contacted by calling (225) 334-7494 or 3772 North Blvd., Suite B, Baton Rouge, La. 70806.

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