Credentials should make him Shue-in for Hall of Fame

John Steadman

August 27, 1993|By John Steadman

Since he was a mere child, age 11, when he answered to the nickname of "Bones," Gene Shue has been associated with basketball. From the Willow Avenue Playground to the great venues of the country he has been a front-line player, coach and now an executive.

Simple arithmetic tells you his association with the game, amateur and professional, has encompassed 51 years and counting. Now his nomination has been made to the Basketball Hall of Fame, which means Shue has been entered into the electoral process for the highest award the sport has to offer.

From a provincial standpoint, it's the first time a Baltimore-born basketball figure has been on the Hall of Fame ballot. Shue, age 62 and personnel director of the Philadelphia 76ers, hasn't exactly been overlooked for honors. He's in the University of Maryland Hall of Fame; the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame; and the Michigan Athletic Hall of Fame -- as a result of distinguishing himself with the Detroit Pistons. And, yes, there's still another honor that means much to him.

He was voted the best athlete to graduate from Blessed Sacrament School, which also sent Tommy Byrne and Gordon Mueller to baseball's major leagues, Jack Targarona to quarterback the University of Maryland football team and Pat Corrigan to the captaincy of the Naval Academy baseball team.

Shue has credentials that can't be minimized. He has been cast in virtually every role the game offers, excluding club owner. His first notoriety was as an all-state selection at Towson Catholic High, then All-American at Maryland, a player in five NBA All-Star games and a first team All-NBA guard in 1960. Then, later, he was twice voted NBA Coach of the Year during 23 seasons directing teams in Baltimore, Washington, Philadelphia and San Diego.

Besides being a player and a coach, his career has found him in almost every position the pro game offers -- general manager, scout, director of player personnel and even as a broadcaster.

His coaching portfolio is highlighted not only by his longevity but the fact he assumed leadership of poor teams, as witness what (( happened to the woeful Bullets in Baltimore and Washington and the 76ers in Philadelphia. In each instance, with Shue in command, they became playoff teams and championship contenders.

Had it not been for his friendship with Charley Eckman, then coaching the Fort Wayne Pistons, his pro career might never have materialized.

Eckman traded for him after Shue had been riding the bench with the then-Philadelphia Warriors and New York Knicks. He had been a first-round draft choice of the Warriors (the third pick overall in the country) but didn't get an opportunity to play until Eckman brought him to the Pistons.

Nick Curran, once the publicity man for the NBA, now a vice president with Dean Witter Reynolds Inc., in Santa Barbara, Calif., calls "Shue the Mr. Fix-it when it came to rebuilding weak teams." Eight of his former players became pro head coaches and three of his assistants also were elevated to head coaching jobs.

On a personal basis, Curran recollects attending the funeral of Hall of Famer Joe Lapchick. "The NBA asked Eddie Gottlieb and I to represent the league at the service held in Yonkers, N.Y.," recalls Curran. "The only NBA figure outside New York to attend was Gene Shue. The man has always had a certain class and sensitivity. That doesn't make you a Hall of Famer but, believe me, his credentials make him an impressive candidate."

That Shue is up for consideration is a tribute to his extensive attainments. Only five candidates are elected annually to the Basketball Hall of Fame and it's necessary a player or coach receive 18 affirmative votes from the 24-member Honors Committee -- which makes it a difficult chore.

Of particular note is Shue was the first backcourtman to score over 10,000 points until Oscar Robertson displaced him in the record book. Still later, when he retired as a coach, with 784 wins and 861 losses, only three other coaches in NBA history had won more games.

The chances of Shue's being a first-time eligible enshrinee is a jTC long shot because the standards for admission are exacting. Yet from the service to basketball aspect, plus impressive individual statistics as a player and a coach, his candidacy brings with it an impressive resume.

Gene Shue belongs. Check his longevity, which is extremely significant, and the performance chart that sets him apart in any

objective evaluation of measuring achievement.

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