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A tribute to my friend and mentor, Gene Bartow

Received some very, very sad news Tuesday night. My good friend and mentor, Gene Bartow, passed away Tuesday after a long battle with cancer. He was 81.

Not only was he a great coach, he was a great man. He’s going to be sorely missed.

His wife, Ruth, and I talked Monday morning. Both of us cried knowing that it was coming to an end. My heart and my prayers go out to the Bartow family.

Words will never be able to describe how much Gene meant to me, but I wanted to use this space to offer a little tribute to my dear friend. Here is just a sample of what Gene did during his amazing career:

  • Gene was elected to 10 different Hall of Fames, including the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. He was inducted in 2009 along with Magic Johnson, Larry Bird, Wayman Tisdale, Jud Heathcote, Walter Byers, Travis Grant and Bill Wall.
  • He is also a member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame, the UAB Hall of Fame and the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame.
  • Gene is known as “The Father of UAB Athletics.” He was the school’s first athletics director while serving as the first basketball coach and guided UAB to seven consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. Gene coached at UAB for 18 seasons and led the school to nine total NCAA Tournaments. None of his 18 teams finished below .500.
  • Before UAB, Gene was the coach at UCLA for two seasons. If there was anybody that could succeed legendary coach John Wooden, it was Gene. He took UCLA to the Final Four before leaving for UAB.
  • In 1973 he led Memphis State to the national championship.
  • Overall, Gene coached 34 years at six universities after coaching two high schools in Missouri for six years. He is one of the all-time winningest college basketball coaches, racking up 647 wins during his career.
  • His six different colleges included Central Missouri State (1961-64), Valparaiso (1964-70), Memphis (1970-74), Illinois (1974-75), UCLA (1975-77) and UAB (1978-1996).
  • Gene coached the Puerto Rican national team in the 1972 Munich Olympics and served as the head coach of the U.S. national team in 1974.
  • He was the president of Hoops LP, the company that owns the Memphis Grizzlies.
  • Gene began his career coaching at the prep level. His 1957 St. Charles team won the state championship.