Legendary basketball coach Gene Bartow, who guided the Valparaiso men’s basketball program from 1964-1970 and was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009, passed away Tuesday evening at the age of 81 after battling cancer for the last two and a half years.
Bartow won 92 games over his six seasons at the helm of the Crusaders and is the third-winningest coach in Valpo history. During his tenure, Bartow led Valparaiso to appearances in three NCAA Tournaments, highlighted by advancing to the national quarterfinal in 1967. He was previously inducted into the Valparaiso University Athletics Hall of Fame as part of the inaugural class in 1998, and was named one of Valparaiso University's 150 Most Influential People in 2009.
“Gene Bartow was one of the finest people that I have ever known,” said Bruce Lindner, who played for Bartow and was named Indiana Collegiate Conference Player of the Year under Bartow’s guidance in 1969-1970. “He treated everyone with dignity and respect. He was a caring, compassionate individual with values that made him a great leader and coach. I feel extremely fortunate to have had him as my coach and mentor for four years at Valparaiso University. He will be missed by all that knew him.”
Bartow, who also spent time coaching at Central Missouri State, Memphis State, Illinois, UCLA and UAB, closed his coaching career with 647 total victories over 34 seasons as a head coach and ranks among the top-25 winningest NCAA Division I head coaches of all-time. He coached his teams to 12 NCAA tournaments, a pair of Final Fours and one national championship game appearance. Bartow was also named the national coach of the year with Memphis State in 1973.
“My life intersected with Gene in many different areas, going back to my high school days when he was coaching in the St. Louis area while I was playing,” said former Valparaiso head coach and current associate athletic director Homer Drew. “He was always an excellent coach, but more importantly, he was always a very gracious, very compassionate man of character. After I got the job here at Valpo, we became long-distance friends, and he really served as a good mentor, someone who was very knowledgeable and willing to share. I’ve seen the impact he’s had on the lives of people who worked or played under him during his time at Valpo, and he’s left a wonderful legacy here at Valparaiso University. The entire Valpo family sends their thoughts and prayers to Gene’s family during this difficult time.”