When it comes to getting things done, Greg Garton is a person you want on your team. A 1982 RHS graduate, Garton has spent his career advocating for the athletes and students at his alma mater, and as much success as he’s accomplished at Republic Schools since his graduation in 1982, he started his path to success during those formative high school years. A 2018 Republic Tiger Sports Hall of Fame inductee, Garton’s list of accomplishments on the basketball court (and the baseball field) set him apart even before considering his career as a coach and administrator.
Garton remembers numerous experiences that propelled him into being the coach and athletic director he became.
“My sophomore year was the first time I experienced pure joy as an athlete.” From a community standpoint, it was the first time in 17 years Republic had produced a State-bound team, and “everyone was hungry for victory,” Garton recalls. “The community was excited. Everyone was behind us, pushing us, and it was exciting to be a part of something that brought joy to other people.”
That “something” landed Garton and his teammates a second-place state trophy. Two seasons later, leading the Tigers in scoring and rebounding for a third straight season, Garton set one of Republic’s most high-profile basketball records: points in a single game.
“My teammates fed me the ball. We were playing at home against Bolivar and the record was 52 at the time. I hit the bucket for my 54th point and it really felt good in front of my hometown crowd.” Garton’s record would stand until another Republic Tiger Sports Hall of Fame inductee, John Wakeman, broke it against Buffalo nine years later.
Garton recalls playing ball since first and second grade, and he acknowledges his parents, John and Jan Garton, as being instrumental in his success. And he says his teammates and coaches created more opportunities for him.
“My teammates and I, we weren’t thrown together, we worked together. We all supported each other, and Coach (Jerry) Buescher taught us the value of pure, hard work. We weren’t always the most talented on the court, but we knew if we played hard, practiced hard, and gave our best, that good things would come.”
Garton’s work ethic and “give-it-your-all” attitude led him to Missouri Southern, where he is still the school’s all-time leading scorer with 2,140 points. His play there, which also includes the top free-throw percentage in school history, earned him two-time All-American honors and induction into Missouri Southern State University’s Athletic Hall of Fame.
While Garton’s success as an athlete was abundant, his contributions after high school will last much longer. After a successful stint as head basketball coach at Clever, compiling a 73-17 record, Garton returned home to Republic, first as coach, next as assistant principal, and finally as athletic and activities director. Under Garton’s guidance, things have changed and success is apparent. Of Republic’s 17 Final Four teams, 10 have occurred under Garton’s leadership, and four of the school’s six state championships occurred under his guidance. Other programs caught the bug of success, and several sports have made their first appearances in a final four: softball, volleyball, boys golf, and boys soccer. But Garton’s most fulfilling work will come to fruition this fall, when the lights come on and the 4,000-seat Republic Tiger Stadium fills up for the community’s first home football game.
“This was challenging, but the most fulfilling highlight of my career. It’s been years of hard work as a member of the Project Management Team for both our new high school and this stadium, and I only see continued good to come to our community from all of this.”
As far as future athletes, Garton hopes they know that “it’s your responsibility to work hard. If you work hard and are passionate about what you do, no one can stop you, but you must do more than everyone else–more shots, more hits, more push-ups, more jump ropes. More. Do more and you’ll find success.”
Doing more is what’s next on Garton’s life list. His next chapter, retirement, began with the end of the 2017-18 school year, and he says he’s open to possibilities.
“Everything I’ve done and learned from my work at Republic has prepared me for new and exciting things ahead, but mostly, I’m looking forward to spending more time with Janetta,” he says. “I’ve passed on my love of music to my daughter, Makenna, so I know we’ll be taking in some music concerts.”
Asked if he’ll be at the opening game at Republic Tiger Stadium this fall, Garton says “I wouldn’t miss it. I’ve spent 45 working and playing years in this community. It’s home to me.”