may be that no person has earned such respect and admiration in such a
short time in the City of Memphis as did Gene Bartow. He came to
Memphis in 1970 and left in 1974. He was loved in Memphis when he left
and he was loved in Memphis when he died January 3, 2012, at his home
in Birmingham, Alabama.
"Clean Gene," as he was often called by Memphians, came to the city to coach the Memphis State University men's basketball team. In the previous season, the team won six games and lost 20. In his first year the record improved to 18-8, then the next year 21-7. In 1973, he guided the team to the NCAA national championship game. He was a great coach but it was far more than his coaching ability that endeared him to Memphians. Recent history will reveal how many in the city reverse their emotions when a good coach leaves. It was not so with Bartow, there was great regret at his decision to leave Memphis for the head coaching position at Illinois in 1974 but the affection for him never faded. Always a gentleman, Bartow demonstrated the spirit of good sportsmanship and highest integrity in all he did.
The former sports editor of the Memphis Press-Scimitar newspaper, George Lapides, remembered his friend by calling him "as nice a human being as God ever put on the planet.” (The Commercial Appeal)
The '72-'73 Memphis team lost to powerhouse UCLA in that national championship game but Bartow was named National Coach of the Year. After the next season, Bartow went to Illinois, then in 1976, took over at UCLA when legendary coach John Wooden retired. He took UCLA to the "Final Four" in the national tournament but after two years took the position of head basketball coach and athletic director at the University of Alabama at Birmingham to start that school's basketball program. He coached at UAB until 1996 and retired from the athletic director's position in 2000. At the time of his death, Bartow was president of Hoops, LP, the company that owns the Memphis Grizzlies’ basketball team.
Bartow was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.