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Gene Bartow, Who Followed John Wooden as UCLA Coach, Dies at 81

Gene Bartow, Who Followed John Wooden as UCLA Coach
Gene Bartow appears at a halftime presentation during a game between the Houston Rockets and Memphis Grizzlies in Memphis on Jan. 19, 2004. Photographer: Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images

Gene Bartow, the basketball coach who succeeded John Wooden at UCLA and later began the athletic program at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, has died after being diagnosed with stomach cancer. He was 81.

Bartow, who was president of the company that operated the National Basketball Association’s Memphis Grizzlies and the FedExForum, died last night at his home in Birmingham, Alabama, the school said in a statement. He had cancer since April 2009.

“Coach Bartow is a beloved figure in college basketball and in the lives of many players and fans,” UAB Athletic Director Brian Mackin said in a statement. “He was a great man and dedicated leader who set a standard of excellence for UAB athletics.”

Bartow, who was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009, coached for 34 years and won 647 games with six different schools.

He led Central Missouri State from 1961-64, Valparaiso from 1964-70, Memphis State from 1970-74 and Illinois from 1974-75 before taking over for Wooden at UCLA. Bartow led the Bruins to a 52-9 record in two seasons and a berth in the 1976 Final Four.

Wooden, who passed away at the age of 99 in 2010, led the Bruins to 10 NCAA titles -- including seven straight from 1964-75.

Bartow began the sports program at UAB in 1977, coaching the basketball team for 18 seasons and serving as the school’s athletic director for 24. The Blazers made the National Collegiate Athletic Association tournament 10 times with Bartow as coach, reaching the final eight in 1982.

The school’s basketball building was renamed Bartow Arena in his honor in 1997.

Bartow most recently was the president of Hoops LP and served as an adviser to the NBA’s Grizzlies.

He is survived by his wife, Ruth, and children, Mark, Beth and Murray.

Funeral arrangements are pending, the school said.

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