When you think of legendary college basketball coaches a few names readily come to mind, such as John Wooden, Adolph Rupp, Dean Smith and Bob Knight. And there are a few active coaches, such as Duke's Mike Krzyzewski,
There's another name that belongs in that group: Gene Bartow.
By the time he retired from coaching in 1996, he had guided teams for 34 years at six universities (Central Missouri State, Valparaiso, Memphis State, Illinois, UCLA and UAB), compiling 647 wins and 12 NCAA Tournament appearances, including two Final Four appearances. In fact, he still ranks in the top 20 among winningest NCAA D-I basketball coaches.
Bartow receives his just due Sunday when he's inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony will be held at the College Basketball Experience -- home of the hall -- in the
"I think as basketball coaches a couple (of Halls of Fame) are kind of the special, the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame along with the Naismith," Bartow told me by phone Saturday from
Bartow, 79, is one of two coaches to be inducted in the 2009 class and is joined by former
Bartow succeeded Wooden as UCLA's coach in 1976 and led the Bruins to the Final Four. He left after two seasons to start UAB's program. He is considered the "founding father" of UAB athletics. As the UAB athletics director from 1977 until his retirement in 2000, Bartow grew an intercollegiate sports program there from its infancy into one that featured 17 sports.
"I'm proud of the fact that I've had two Final Four teams and I had three Final Eight teams. There are not very many in our profession that have had that. With that said, I wouldn't be there if it wasn't for the UAB story. I'm a UAB guy."
Former UAB players Oliver Robinson, Steve Mitchell, and Chris Giles traveled to Missouri for their former coach's induction.
In his 18 seasons at the helm of the UAB men's basketball program, Bartow compiled a record of 366-203 (.643). He led the Blazers to the NIT in the program's second year of existence, and followed that up with seven consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, including trips to the Sweet 16 in 1981 and the Elite Eight in 1982 when they upset Virginia and Ralph Sampson in the Sweet 16. In all, he led UAB to 14 postseason appearances, 10 of which were NCAA Tournaments.
Gene Bartow listed playing in the Final Four while at
Bartow currently is the president of the company that owns the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies. "The owners have kept me involved," Bartow said. "I watch college games for them and evaluate players. As long as my energy keeps up and as long as I stay healthy, I'll keep doing those things."
Bartow's induction comes at a time when he is battling stomach cancer, which was diagnosed in April. Doctors determined at the time of their diagnosis that the disease was in the fourth of four stages, meaning the cancer has spread throughout the body from its original onset.
"I had chemo(therapy) for five months," Bartow said. "My last CAT scan showed the tumors were stable and quiet. I'm feeling better and getting some of my energy level back. I'm walking every day."
Bartow joked about being in
"I'm just happy to be anywhere right now," he said with a laugh.