|John Wooden, left, and Gene Bartow at a press conference on March 26, 1973, in St. Louis. Bartow was coaching against Wooden while at Memphis State. He would succeed him at UCLA less than three years later. (AP)|
By Gary Parrish
Hall of Fame basketball coach Gene Bartow died Tuesday night after a long battle with cancer.
He was 81.
Bartow is a notable figure in the sport for three reasons:
- He coached Memphis (then Memphis State) to the 1973 national championship game.
- He replaced John Wooden at UCLA.
- He built UAB's basketball program from scratch.
"I called him before our game against Robert Morris, and I told him he was my associate head coach and that I just wanted to get osmosis through him, and he chuckled about that," Pastner said. "When you look at that 1973 team with Coach Bartow and Larry Finch and Ronnie Robinson, that is Tiger Basketball. And it's an honor and a privilage for me to sit in the same chair where he once sat."
Bartow spent his final years working with the Memphis Grizzlies.
That's when I got to know him.
I won't pretend I knew him well because I didn't. But I knew him a little and he was a gentlemen, just one of the best people you could ever hope to meet. People love in times like these to talk about how an individual was a better person than player or better person than actor or whatever, and I almost always roll my eyes because it's cliche and usually untrue. But it really might be true in Bartow's case. He was a Hall of Fame coach and a Hall of Fame man. I've never heard anybody say a bad word about him.
"Gene Bartow was a coach that cared about other coaches," Tweeted former coach Tom Penders. "If you didn't like Gene Bartow, you had a problem."