On this day in Alabama history: Gene Bartow was born

On this day in Alabama history: Gene Bartow was born
UAB President Dr. S. Richardson Hill Jr. welcomes Coach Gene Bartow as the university's first athletic director and head coach of a new men's intercollegiate basketball team, June 14, 1977. Hill recruited Coach Bartow to UAB from his position as coach of basketball powerhouse UCLA. Bartow served as coach until 1996 and as athletic director until 2000. In 1997, the UAB Arena was renamed Bartow Arena in his honor. (The University of Alabama at Birmingham)

Aug. 18, 1930

Gene Bartow was the first men’s basketball coach and the first athletic director at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. During his 18 seasons as coach, his teams won 365 games and made nine appearances in the NCAA Tournament. As athletic director, he helped build the school’s sports department from the ground up and was instrumental in developing UAB’s football program in the 1990s. Bartow was born on Aug. 18, 1930, in Browning, Missouri. He began coaching while still in college at age 21, leading the Greentop Missouri High School team to a 16-6 record during the 1951-52 season. After a number of coaching jobs, in 1975, Bartow became the coach at UCLA, succeeding the legendary John Wooden. He had two of the best seasons of his coaching career there, going 28-4 and 24-5 and advancing to the semifinals of the NCAA championship tournament in 1976. Bartow surprised everyone when he left UCLA in 1977 to go to UAB, which did not have a basketball program or an athletic department. He took over in the dual roles of men’s basketball coach and athletic director in the summer of 1977. The school’s athletic teams began NCAA-sanctioned competition for the first time in fall 1978 in the Sun Belt Conference. Bartow was inducted to the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame in 1989. Bartow Arena, where UAB plays its home basketball games, is named for him. He died Jan. 3, 2012.

Read more at Encyclopedia of Alabama.

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