Bartow battling stomach cancer

Published 9:54 am Thursday, April 16, 2009

Former UAB men’s basketball coach and athletic director Gene Bartow was honored Wednesday night at the FedExForum in Memphis for his recent selection to the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame, hours after it became public that he is battling stomach cancer.

Bartow, who has a house in Inverness, is the President of Hoops LP for NBA franchise Memphis Grizzlies and was honored before the Grizzlies regular season finale Wednesday against the Atlanta Hawks. He will begin outpatient treatment at the Kirklin Clinic in Birmingham next week, according to the Associated Press.

Girzzlies Majority Owner and CEO Michael Heisley released a statement announcing Bartow’s cancer.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with Gene and we look forward to his speedy recovery. We spoke to him today and he is doing well, and is very optimistic. Currently we have little information, but we will provide further updates when it becomes available with the blessing of Gene and his family,” Heisley said.

The sentiment was the same from UAB athletic director Brian Mackin.

“Coach Bartow is the person most responsible for this athletics program and means so much to UAB and all Blazers,” Mackin said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Coach Bartow and his family. Coach no doubt will fight this with the same spirit he coached with for so many years.”

Bartow, considered the “Founding Father” of UAB athletics, coached at UAB from 1977-96, taking the Blazers to the NIT in its second year as a program and seven NCAA Tournament appearances. UAB went to the Sweet 16 in 1981 and Elite Eight in 1982.

Bartow, a Missouri native, also took Memphis State University and UCLA to the Final Four in the 1970s. He also coached at Central Missouri State, Valparaiso and Illinois. In 34 years of coaching, he collected 647 wins.

In March 2005, Bartow was the keynote speaker at the NCAA Division II South Regional Basketball Tournament banquet, hosted by the University of Montevallo. Bartow attended numerous UM games that season.

Bartow will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in Kansas City, Mo. On November 22. He will be inducted alongside Larry Bird, Magic Johnson, Jud Heathcote, Wayman Tisdale, Travis Grant, Walter Byers and Bill Wall.