| Wins against Kentucky - 1 | Losses against Kentucky - 1 |
Alma Mater: Truman State 
Hometown: Browning, MO
Date Born: August 18, 1930
Date Died: January 3, 2012
Overall Record: 647-353 [34 Seasons]
|3/15/1981||Kentucky vs. Alabama-Birmingham||L||62 - 69||NCAA Mideast Regional Second Round (at Tuscaloosa, AL)|
|12/20/1980||Alabama-Birmingham at Kentucky||W||61 - 53||UKIT Championship|
Obituary - Birmingham News (January 3, 2012)
Gene Bartow, father of UAB athletics, dies at 81
Gene Bartow, known as "The Father of UAB Athletics," died Tuesday evening at the age of 81 after a two-year battle with stomach cancer.
The Browning, Mo., native spent 34 years as a college basketball head coach and was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in November 2009. He was the head coach at six universities, compiling a 647-353 record. He directed Memphis State to the 1973 national championship game and went 52-9 in two seasons at UCLA, including another Final Four appearance, after the retirement of the legendary John Wooden.
For all of his success on the court, though, it was the way Bartow handled life away from the court that stood out most to Memphis head basketball coach Josh Pastner.
"The best description I can give of Coach Bartow is he was as nice a human being and as good a human being as you'll find," Pastner said recently. "It doesn't matter if you're the janitor or the president of the United States, he treated everyone the same. He was just a good person, an unbelievable soul."
While success followed Bartow throughout his career, it was what he did at UAB that made Bartow's career unique.
"I'm proud of the fact that I've had two Final Four teams and I had three Final Eight teams," Bartow said during a 2009 interview following his election into the Basketball Hall of Fame. "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.
Bartow arrived in Birmingham fresh off a pressure-packed two-year stop at UCLA where he had to replace an irreplaceable coach. The .852 winning percentage and a loss in the 1976 NCAA Tournament Final Four at UCLA were not enough to satisfy a fan base spoiled by Wooden's success.
Bartow and his wife, Ruth, packed up the family after the 1977 season and headed to UAB to start a basketball program.
Bartow, who also served as the school's first athletics director, guided his first team to a 15-11 record and followed that with an 18-12 season that ended in the National Invitation Tournament. The program then made seven consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament, beginning with a Sweet 16 appearance in 1981 and an Elite Eight trip in 1982.
"The fact we had seven straight NCAA Tournaments right there in the early years, (makes people) look at this as kind of a special story," Bartow said.
His 1981 team beat Western Kentucky and Kentucky in Tuscaloosa before losing to eventual national champion Indiana. In 1982, the Blazers knocked off Indiana in Nashville and Ralph Sampson's Virginia team at the BJCC before losing to eventual national champion Louisville in the Elite Eight.
"I've never regretted walking away (from UCLA) because the most fun I've had in coaching or being a part of college athletics was those first eight years at UAB," Bartow said. "That was just a great period."
His overall tenure as UAB's coach spanned 18 seasons and he compiled a 366-203 record. His teams appeared in nine NCAA Tournaments, five NITs and none of the 18 teams finished below .500.
He also coached the Puerto Rican national team in the 1972 Munich Olympics, took U.S. all-star teams to China in 1973 and 1978, coached the U.S. National team in 1974 and concluded basketball clinics around the globe.
Bartow retired from coaching in 1996, handing the UAB program's reins to son Murry, and remained as the athletics director until 2000.
Bartow has been selected to 10 halls of fame, including the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame and UAB Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1989. He was recently named to the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame and is also a member of halls of fame at Truman State University, Valparaiso University, the University of Central Missouri, University of Memphis and Memphis Amateur Sports Hall of Fame.
During the 2009 interview, Bartow laughed when talking about never being fired during his lengthy coaching career.
"There are a lot of reasons that people change jobs," Bartow said at the time. "Until I got to UCLA, the reason I changed was in my mind it was a lot better job as far as prestige (and) financial implications. Usually you leave for that kind of reason unless you've been thrown under the bus and I'm one of the lucky ones. In my 38 years in college athletics, I was never thrown under the bus."
He played a key role in starting the football program at UAB, and he didn't quit working even after retiring from UAB. He served as the general manager of a minor league basketball team in Memphis in 2000 and began working with the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies the following year. He served as the president of Hoops LP, the parent company of the Grizzlies, from 2007 until his death.
Bartow was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2009. He slowed down on his work responsibilities with the Grizzlies during his initial round of chemotherapy treatments but returned once he felt better.
He handled his battle with cancer with the same grace and determination he did during his college coaching career. Last spring, during the Conference USA Tournament in El Paso, Bartow talked about how good he felt and described a workout session he had that morning at UTEP's practice facility where he was "firing up hook shots."
Bartow is survived by his wife of 59 years, Ruth Huffine Bartow, daughter Beth B. Long, sons Mark and Murry Bartow, and eight grandchildren. He is also survived by his brother Russell Bartow.
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