Gene Bartow, age 81, passed away on Tuesday, January 3, at his home in Birmingham, Alabama. He was born on Aug. 18, 1930 in Browning, Mo., the youngest of four children born to Almeda and Tommy Bartow.
Gene is survived by his wife of 59 years, Ruth Huffine Bartow of Galt, Mo., one daughter, Beth B. Long (Chip) of Charlotte, NC, and two sons, Mark Howard Bartow of Palm Desert, Calif., Murry Linn Bartow (Tammy) of Johnson, City, Tenn. He also leaves eight grandchildren, Stryder Howard Bartow, Murry Alexander Bartow, Stephen Carter Bartow, Connor Thomas Bartow, Carter Hanson Long, Davis Bartow Long, Elizabeth Louise Long and Margaret Ann Long.
One brother, Russell Bartow (Marjorie) of Springfield, Mo., survives. Other surviving family members include Irene Bartow, Deloros Huffine, Mary Lee (Huffine) and Jim Bryant and many nieces and nephews, as well as many colleagues, players, coaches and friends who admired and loved him, and will miss him dearly.
Bartow graduated from Browning (Mo.) High School in 1948 and from Northeast Missouri State College (now Truman State University) in Kirksville, Mo., in 1952, and holds a Masters degree from Washington University In St. Louis.
After serving two years in the U.S. Army at Fort Bliss in El Paso, Tex., Bartow coached five years in High School at Shelbina and St. Charles, Mo., going to three state tournaments and winning the Missouri state championship at St. Charles in 1959. The gymnasium at St. Charles is named for Bartow and Ernie Hedges.
Following two years as an assistant coach at the University of California-Santa Barbara, he began his 34 year college head coaching career in 1961 at Central Missouri State (now the University of Central Missouri) at Warrensburg. He coached at Valparaiso (Ind.) University, Memphis State University (now the University of Memphis), the University of Illinois, UCLA, and UAB in Birmingham, where he started the program from scratch in 1977. His 1973 Memphis State team made it to the national championship game. Bartow's teams went to three College Division and 12 Division I NCAA tournaments, with two Final Fours, one Elite Eight and two Sweet 16s. Bartow's teams went to the NIT seven times, advancing to the Final Four twice.
He started the athletic program at UAB in 1977 as head coach and athletic director. His 647 college wins include 340 at UAB. Bartow retired from coaching in 1996, retaining his athletic director's post until 2000. After his retirement the arena at UAB was renamed Bartow Arena. Bartow coached Puerto Rican and United States national teams, including the Puerto Rican team in the 1972 Olympics at Munich, Germany. He took the first United States basketball team to The People's Republic of China in 1973, and has conducted coaching clinics in many countries, including China, Japan, Italy, Spain, Germany and England.
But retirement from active college coaching, and from UAB as athletic director, didn't mean retirement for Bartow, but just a change of direction. In 2000 he became the General Manager of the Memphis Hound Dogs, a minor league professional team, and the next year joined the National Basketball Association (NBA) Memphis Grizzlies, initially working in sales, scouting and public relations. In 2007 Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley asked him to serve as President of Hoops LP, the parent company of the Grizzlies and the operating company of the FedEx Forum, the Grizzlies home arena. Bartow served as President of the Hoops LP until his death.
Highly respected as a coach and administrator, and as a role model to those whose lives he touched, Bartow has received many honors. In 1973 he was selected as the National College Basketball Coach of the Year, was Coach of the Year twice in the Missouri Valley Conference and three times in the Sun Belt Conference. Bartow has been named to 10 halls of fame, including the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame (2009). He is also a member of state sports Halls of Fame in Alabama (1989), Missouri (1989) and Tennessee this year, as well as Halls of Fame at Truman State University (1999), Valparaiso University (1999), the University of Central Missouri (2000), UAB (2009) and the University of Memphis as recipient of the Murray Armstrong award (2010), as well as the Memphis Amateur Sports Hall of Fame (2010).
Bartow was honoured at UAB with the President's Medal (1986) and UAB Alumni Honorary Life Membership (1997), by Montevallo University with the President's Award for Exemplary Citizenship (1986), and with the NACDA/NIT Athletic Directors Award (2005) and the Liberty Bowl Zinn Award (2010). He served the communities in which he lived in advisory positions and on the boards of several charitable organizations, foundations and civic groups, including at the time his death, the Alabama Automobile Association and the UAB Educational Foundation.
The family would like to thank the doctors, nurses and other caregivers for their care and support through this difficult journey.
Visitation will be Sunday, January 8 at Bartow Arena on the UAB campus, 617 13th Street, South, Birmingham, Alabama, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m.
The funeral service will be at Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church, 2061 Kentucky Ave., on Monday, January 9, at 11 a.m., with interment following at Southern Heritage Cemetery, 475 Cahaba Valley Road (Highway 119) in Pelham, AL.
In lieu of flowers the family requests memorial be made to the Gene Bartow Research Fund at the UAB Comprehensive Cancer Center, 1824 6th Avenue, S, Birmingham, Al 35294; the UAB Athletic Scholarship Fund, UAB Athletic Department, 617 13th Street, S, Birmingham, AL 35294, or Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church.
eritage Funeral Home, Pelham, AL.