High Point University/College mourns the death of their All-Time Top Basketball Player, Gene Littles

Gene/Geno Littles, played college basketball for the High Point University/High Point College Purple Panthers…Gene is considered by most followers and observers of HPU basketball, as the top player in HPU/HPC men’s basketball history…
(Gene passed away on Thursday, September 9/Gene Littles was 78 years old)

Gene played for the Carolina Cougars of the ABA, after his college days at High Point College…Gene also was the head coach of the N.C. A&T Aggies, and he was the head coach of the Charlotte Hornets, for two seasons…Gene coached the Hornets during the 1989-1990 and 1990-1991 seasons, and also spent time as the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Denver Nuggets…

Gene played at High Point College back in the days when High Point, Guilford, Catawba, Lenoir-Rhyne, Elon and even Western Carolina ruled the old Carolinas Conference…Carolinas Conference basketball was on par with many of the players that you would find in the ACC/Atlantic Coast Conference, back in the 1960’s and 1970’s….

High Point College had Gene Littles, Guilford College had M.L. Carr, Lloyd Free, Bob Kauffman, and others, Catawba College had Dwight Durante, Elon College had Tommy Cole, Western Carolina University had Henry Logan, Lenoir-Rhyne had John Lynch, and there were many major names, on the Carolinas Conference circuit…

Gene Littles was one of the top/best/most talented basketball players to even lace them up, here in the Carolinas….Gene came to the Triad out of McKinley High School, in Washington, D.C.
(His wife worked for WGHP TV 8 in High Point, and that also helped keep Gene in our area, after his college days at High Point were complete.)

RIP:Gene/Geno Littles

The story on Gene Littles from Wikipedia/www.wikipedia.com

Eugene Scape Littles (born June 29, 1943) is a retired American basketball player and coach. He played professional basketball for six years.

Littles played college basketball at High Point University(High Point College), where he is the all-time leading scorer in High Point school history, and a NAIA All-American. Afterward Littles was selected in the 5th round of the 1969 NBA Draft by the New York Knicks and in the 1969 ABA Draft by the Dallas Chaparrals. Littles opted to play in the American Basketball Association (ABA).

Littles played for five seasons with the Carolina Cougars (1969–74). He was named to the All-Rookie Team in 1970. He then played for one season (1974–75) with the Kentucky Colonels. With Kentucky, Littles was a member of the Colonels team that won the 1975 ABA Championship.

After his playing career, Littles got into coaching, and became an assistant with the Cleveland Cavaliers of the National Basketball Association (NBA). Littles then served as the head basketball coach at North Carolina A&T from 1977 to 1979. Littles led the team to two straight MEAC Tournament Championships. He got his first taste of NBA head coaching when George Karl was dismissed at the end of the 1985–86 season. The Cavaliers next year hired Lenny Wilkens, however.

In 1990, Littles got a second NBA head coaching job, with the Charlotte Hornets—replacing Dick Harter. He lasted as season and a half with the recent-expansion Hornets, until he was replaced with Allan Bristow at the end of the 1990–91 season. Littles later became an assistant with the Denver Nuggets, and served as an interim coach during the 1994–95 season, in between Dan Issel and Bernie Bickerstaff.

3 thoughts on “High Point University/College mourns the death of their All-Time Top Basketball Player, Gene Littles

  1. Gene Littles was one of my favorite people to be around during my time as a sports writer at the News & Record. I first saw him play at High Point (College, back then) when the Panthers wore those high socks with the vertical purple stripes. He was about 6-1, quick with a picture-perfect jumper — come to a stop, go straight up, release at the top of the jump. He could play point guard or shooting guard or, in the pros, excel as a third guard and was an excellent defender. Gene was the only player to play all five seasons with the Carolina Cougars and rounded out his career with one season with the Kentucky Colonels. When he got into coaching, I covered a lot of his games during his two years as head coach at A&T. I remember he took the Aggies into a game at nationally-ranked Cincinnati and they almost pulled off a monumental upset, but a last-second shot bounced off the rim. He went 40-15 in two seasons, twice winning the MEAC Tournament. I was delighted when he was hired by the fledgling Charlotte Hornets as an assistant and later promoted to head coach, although he didn’t have much talent to work with. He moved around to several other teams in the NBA but I didn’t see him for a long time until his induction into the GCSHOF in 2006, when we spoke for a few minutes. He was always friendly, cooperative and willing to talk, which I appreciated as a media member. He and his beautiful wife Rita made High Point their home for many years even when his career took him elsewhere. RIP, Geno.

    By David Aldridge
    February 7, 1990
    Washington Post

    CHARLOTTE — Gene Littles, the Charlotte Hornets’ interim coach, is asked about Henry Logan, a name from his college basketball past.

    “In this game, he’s probably still a 30-point guy,” Littles said, “because he was a great offensive player. He could really get off the floor like David Thompson or Michael Jordan, all those guys with a lot of lift, a lot of legs. He could score in this league because he would go over most people and he could shoot the 18-footer.”

    Henry Logan played at Western Carolina University when Gene Littles set the all-time scoring record at High Point College in High Point, N.C., in the mid-1960s. That’s when Dwight Durante was as Catawba (N.C.) College, and Earl Monroe was at Winston-Salem State. You’ve no doubt heard of Monroe. Mention of the others might draw a blank, as perhaps does the name Gene Littles.

    But Littles has served basketball all his adult life, since he starred at McKinley High in the late 1950s. He’s played with Larry Brown and coached with Bobby Cremins. At North Carolina A&T he took a program that was 4-21 the year before and won 40 of 55 games over two seasons. That feat is not well-known because those were the days before the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference got an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. So Littles didn’t go.

    Now, after the tempestuous firing of Dick Harter last week, Littles, 46, who had been the director of player personnel for the Hornets, is in his second NBA mop-up job. He coached the Cleveland Cavaliers for the final 15 games of the 1986 season.

    “We’re trying to put something together to finish the season,” he said over a pregame dinner last week. “Hopefully finish it with a real positive reflection on how our players have developed, how our team has grown together as a unit, whether they feel good about themselves and feel good as a team.”

    “I remember when I played against him,” Brown said. “He used to post me up and Alex Hannum used to yell at me all the time. But he can communicate. He’s got a great knowledge of the game. We’ve stayed in touch. When I was at Kansas, we went to some clinics together. He knows how to deal with people and he knows the game.” Vanguards

    Back before the Atlantic Coast Conference and Southeastern Conference got all the home-grown talent, before Dean Smith’s cigarettes and Jim Valvano’s television shows and Dale Brown’s eccentricity, those leagues didn’t allow black players in their conferences. Blacks went to black colleges or they didn’t go at all.

    Littles was an All-Met at McKinley, but he didn’t go to college right away to play ball. He went to Cortez-Peters Business School, which had an Amateur Athletic Union team. He played in the old Chevy Chase Summer League and worked at the Government Printing Office.

    One day, Mort Littman, a longtime local scout, and Tom Quinn, the coach at High Point, went to Bolling Air Force field to see a Cortez game. Littles was impressive.

    “Of course he never heard of High Point College,” Littman said. “But Quinn told me, ‘We’re not allowed to recruit black players yet.’ But it was the same time that Henry Logan enrolled at Western Carolina. I stayed in touch with Gene, but Quinn still said, ‘We’re not allowed.’

    “Then, Cortez went down to North Carolina to play the Winston-Salem YMCA. I called the athletic director, Jim Hamilton, and said, ‘You’ve got to see this kid play.’ That was a Friday night. He went for about 30. They decided by Saturday night to let Gene enter the gym. **********He was the first black kid that ever went in the High Point gym.”**********

    By the time he went out of the gym four years later, in 1969, he had set the school record for points (2,398), field goal percentage (.646), free throw percentage (.876) and scoring average (23.2 points a game).

    “I saw that sucker play,” said Jerry Steele, the coach then at Guilford (N.C.) College who is now at High Point. “They had a good club, but he made each one of them better. He wasn’t selfish, maybe he wasn’t selfish enough at that time to get his just dues. . . . When they needed 30 from him to win, he got 30. When they were going along good, he’d get eight.”

  3. from the High Point University website:
    High Point University Mourns Loss of All-Time Great Panther Basketball Player Gene Littles

    Legendary High Point University men’s basketball player, the program’s all-time leading scorer, and former ABA Player and NBA head coach Gene Littles passed away on Thursday, September 9th. He was 78.

    Littles attended HPU from 1965-1969 where he was a three-time NAIA All-American. Littles’ legacy has carried on long past his graduation in 1969 as he leads the program in several career categories including points, field goals, and free throws made. However, his legacy at HPU stretches far beyond just basketball as Littles was the first African American student-athlete to live on campus at High Point College. Littles broke down racial barriers throughout his career as both a collegiate and professional.

    Littles was a DC native and chose to attend HPU in 1965. By the end of his career, Littles would inspire future African Americans to attend High Point. One of those players he had an immediate effect on was a fellow DMV native, Class of 1972 HPU basketball alum, and current High Point University men’s basketball head coach, Tubby Smith.

    “We are saddened by the passing of another legend of our High Point University Athletic family in Gene Littles’, Coach Smith said. “Gene was the best player in High Point University Basketball history. He was a true gentleman, a great competitor, and a classy individual. He was a role model for me and many other collegiate and professional athletes. Gene was a proud ambassador for our alma mater and he represented the values of High Point University throughout his career. We will always remember Gene and honor his legacy. Our sincerest condolences and best wishes to his family, friends, and loved ones.”

    His impact in basketball spread beyond just college as he was drafted by the New York Knicks in the fifth round of the 1969 NBA Draft. He was also drafted in the 1969 ABA Draft by the Dallas Chaparrals. Littles is the first and only HPU basketball player to be drafted to the NBA. Littles decided to play in the ABA. He stayed in the Triad area as he opened the first five years of his career with the Carolina Cougars from 1969-1974, where he played a season coached by the legendary coach Jerry Steele. He earned an all-rookie selection in 1970 with the Cougars. He played one season (74-75) with the Kentucky Colonels; Littles and the Colonels won the ABA Championship in 1975. Littles averaged 9.0 points per game as a professional finishing his six seasons with a total of 4,066 points.

    Littles transitioned to coaching and started his coaching career with the Cleveland Cavaliers as an assistant coach. He then came back to North Carolina where he became the head coach of North Carolina A&T from 1977-1979. During his two seasons with the Aggies, he led A&T to two consecutive MEAC Tournament Championships. Littles finished with a 40-15 record as a collegiate head coach.

    In 1986, he returned to the NBA this time as a head coach as he finished the last 19 games of the season for the Cavaliers. In 1990, Littles was named the head coach of the Charlotte Hornets midway through the season and remained the head coach for the entirety of the 1990-91 season. His last NBA coaching job was with the Denver Nuggets where he was an assistant in 1994-95 while being the interim head coach for the last 19 games of the season. Littles had the opportunity to work with both Pete Maravich and Michael Jordan during his NBA career.

    Littles was honored two years ago on campus with the naming of a bench outside of the Millis Center. He is a member of both the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame, as well as the High Point University Athletics Hall of Fame. His jersey number of 14 was displayed proudly in the rafters in the Millis Center. His impact at HPU will be felt for years to come and his legacy will live on forever.

    Details of a memorial service for Gene Littles will be released at a later date.

Comments are closed.