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Advice from coach: ‘Stay Tough’

By Hunter Ford
There are all kinds of coaches, good ones, bad ones, mean ones, winning ones, nice ones, losing ones. I don’t think there is any one formula that makes a coach successful.

The best ones, in my opinion, are the ones that make impressions on people that last beyond the court or the playing field.

Gene Bartow, the former head basketball coach of Memphis, UCLA and UAB, is one of those kinds of coaches.

I got to know “Coach Gene” as a reporter for the student paper at UAB.

I was immediately struck by how much he strived to treat everybody with respect.

Bartow could be on the phone talking with Bobby Knight, but if I came by the office he would wave me in and give me some of his time.

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Bartow actually took a great interest in the student newspaper, which was smart if you think about it, because it was a direct voice to the student population and a potential PR tool.

But I never thought of Bartow as just another “car salesman” type. He has always been genuine…the kind of guy who asks about your family and remembers what you said the next time he sees you.

I recently talked with Coach Gene about the fate of UAB football.

We both agreed that there are a lot of problems with it, but that it can still work if the right things happen.

Number one among those “right” things that must happen? The team has to get better and win some games.

In the heart of Crimson Tide and Auburn Tiger country, the Blazers must earn respect and fan affection by beating somebody.

The Blazers were lousy last season, going 2-10 and rarely looking as if they could beat Hoover High School.

The good news however, is that UAB returns lots of starters and has now had two spring practices and a full season under second year head coach Neil Callaway.

Perhaps that will make a difference that can prove wrong the people who voted UAB to finish last in Conference USA this season.

Another thing that has to go “right” for UAB, is that the political animosity existing between some factions of UAB supporters and the “powers that be” in the University of Alabama system must be smoothed over.

There is still passion about some old arguments or differences of opinion. I hate to see such petty things linger.

It’s like the old song “There ain’t no good guys, there ain’t no bad guys. There’s just you and me and we just disagree.”

Coach Gene, a long time ago, wrote a letter to somebody complaining that the folks in Tuscaloosa may not be playing fair as far as certain recruiting rules were concerned. He may have been right, he may have been too quick to judge. It doesn’t really matter now.

Bartow is still on the scene at UAB, although not as visible as he used to be. That could be one thing holding back the necessary healing that has to occur. Could be. I don’t really know.

One prominent Alabama fan told me a long time ago that UAB and Alabama would never play in basketball “as long as Gene Bartow had anything to do with UAB.”

It’s a shame the two schools don’t play on the hardwood. They compete in baseball and other sports. Alabama recently played a game against Birmingham Southern. They can’t play UAB? It would raise the interest level for the sport, and Alabama basketball might need that now, more so than UAB basketball.

I digress. This column was supposed to have been about Gene Bartow, and I don’t have room to tell some of the stories about him I would like to share.

I would say this about the guy. He was always a winner on the basketball court, if not in the court of public opinion, or the eyes of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees.

He took two schools to Final Fours, three to the Elite Eight, he coached in the national championship game, he won more than 600 games… he is 1-0 against Alabama.

Coach Gene knows some stuff that’s worth knowing. More often than not, when I get a chance to talk with him, he concludes our conversation asking me how I’m doing personally. And he ends it with the same advice… “Stay tough.”

10 thoughts on “Advice from coach: ‘Stay Tough’”

  1. I think Bartow’s ego held back any rapprochement between UAB and UA. What is that old Southern saying that you catch more flies with honey…had Bartow respected the position of Alabama football, he probably would’ve gotten more of what he wanted.

    I’d like to hear more of Bartow’s side of things. Maybe I’m wrong in how I’ve judged the situation.

    But from what I understand, Bartow’s attitude had much to do with the cold war between Southside and Tuscaloosa.

  2. when gene bartow came to uab, he intended on retiring there. nice little quiet football town where nobody cared about basketball and he could build a program without the bright lights and expectations of westwood. the only problem?? he didn’t do his homework.

    fact. uab athletics was born of spite. it was the brainchild (or fart) of a select few determined to take a swipe at the founding institution (the capstone) with it’s mere existence.

    fact. there was this little unknown career assistant recently turned head coach (who had an affinity for plaid jackets) who took offense to the notion that some high falutin’ former ucla head coach was gonna come down here and build a program with recruits out of his backyard. (bartow’s early success was built on talent from memphis. when that connection dried up, so did his program)

    fact. when the high falutin’ former ucla head coach consistently got his head handed to him recruiting in-state, he ran crying fowl to the ncaa claiming wrong-doing and trashing coach bryant’s legacy at the same time.

    not the way to win friends and influence people in these parts.

    in the positions that count, there are no friends of THE university at alabama-birmingham. period.

    if it were up to me, we wouldn’t play them in ANYTHING!

    no football.

    no basketball.

    no baseball.

    no tiddliwinks.

    no nothing.


    because we don’t need them. for anything. i love the line about how alabama playing the satellite would be “good for basketball”.

    what purveyors of this claptrap fail to tell you is college basketball has never enjoyed more popularity in this state than when bartow and sanderson were at each others throats on the recruiting trail and NOT PLAYING ON THE COURT!

    playing uab has and always will be about money. money out of our coffers and into theirs. if they need money, let them go to their alum for it. (you can start with john rogers and steve herlihy)

    money from university athletics has already built one program in this state.

    how many more would you have us build???

  3. Off topic I know, but….

    since you mentioned recruiting between Sanderson and Bartow, what do you basketball experts think of the talent level in Alabama today compared with the late 1980’s? 70’s?

  4. Their fans rant constantly about how Alabama and Aubarn are afraid to play them in basketball and football, but I don’t see the point.
    Alabama and barn fans main interest is football and why play UAB when we know we’d humiliate them, especially now.
    They may give us a run for our money in basketball, but I can only see them winning on a rainy day that’s it.
    If they want attention and respect from us, they’ve gotta find a way that doesn’t consist of getting the crap beat out of them by us.

  5. Auburn and UAB used to play on a regular basis in basketball….seems like they played games the week of the Iron Bowl early in the basketball season….UAB won more than it lost.

  6. In a way, I’d partially like to see us play them in basketball, but then again, their fans are nearly as bad as barnzoes are when they defeat Alabama – and in basketball a win over UA is highly probable. They act like they’ve never done so before, much similar to the reaction of Vandy fans after their first win in decades over Tennessee in 2005.

    I don’t think my stomach could handle any more garbage from the mouths of our second rate schools.

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