(WMC-TV) - The normally high energy Memphis Tigers basketball game got off to a somber start Wednesday night with a moment of silence to remember Gene Bartow.
Players who were not even born when Bartow coached in Memphis bowed their heads in respect for a man whose reputation as a coach and a man followed him long after he left Memphis.
Bartow led the Tigers to the national championship game in 1974.
"He was just an unbelievable human being and a great person and I'm really going to miss him," said University of Memphis Athletic Director R.C. Johnson. "I talked to him right before Christmas and he was still positive and very supportive."
The success Bartow brought to Memphis in the 1970's left a momentum that the athletic staff believes remains today. Assistant Athletic Director Bob Winn was an intern in the athletic department when Bartow was in Memphis.
"In four short years, he really took Memphis from a downturn and shined the national spotlight on this program once again, and probably created a foundation with that national championship game ever since," said Winn.
Tigers fans said they still loved the coach 38 years after the team's run to the national championship game.
"He just had something a lot of people don't have," said Tigers fan Grace Crisman. "That's all there is to it."
"He was well liked and I think that translated to the players," said Winn. "They have been quoted as talking about him as being that mentor in their lives that really took them from one direction to another and really built them as young men."
The Memphis Grizzlies also honored Bartow Wednesday by wearing a "GB" patch on their shoes during their game against the Minnesota Timberwolves.
There will be a public visitation for Bartow on Sunday, January 8 from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at Bartow Arena in Birmingham, where he lived. The funeral will be Monday, January 9 at Vestavia Hills United Methodist Church.
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