Gene Shue
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Gene Shue

Gene Shue
Gene Shue.jpg
Gene Shue at Maryland in 1954
Personal information
Born (1931-12-18) December 18, 1931 (age 88)
Baltimore, Maryland
Listed height6 ft 2 in (1.88 m)
Listed weight170 lb (77 kg)
Career information
High schoolTowson Catholic
(Towson, Maryland)
CollegeMaryland (1951-1954)
NBA draft1954 / Round: 1 / Pick: 3rd overall
Selected by the Philadelphia Warriors
Playing career1954-1964
Number4, 6, 7, 21, 12
Career history
As player:
1954Philadelphia Warriors
1954-1956New York Knicks
1956-1962Fort Wayne/Detroit Pistons
1962-1963New York Knicks
1963-1964Baltimore Bullets
As coach:
1966-1973Baltimore Bullets
1973-1977Philadelphia 76ers
1978-1980San Diego Clippers
1980-1986Washington Bullets
1987-1989Los Angeles Clippers
Career highlights and awards

As coach:

Career statistics
Points10,068 (14.4 ppg)
Rebounds2,855 (4.1 rpg)
Assists2,608 (3.7 apg)
Stats at

Eugene William Shue (born December 18, 1931) is an American former professional basketball player and coach in the National Basketball Association (NBA). Shue was one of the top guards of the early days of the NBA and an influential figure in the development of basketball. He is credited with inventing the "Spin Move" while being an early harbinger of other plays and strategies. Shue was an NBA All-Star five consecutive times (1958-62). After his successful playing career, he became a long-serving coach, twice winning NBA Coach of the Year. Throughout his career as player, coach, and executive, Shue was "a specialist at taking over faltering teams."[1]

Playing career

Early life

Shue grew up Baltimore, Maryland's Govans neighborhood and attended Towson Catholic High School.[2] His family lived on welfare and he did not own a basketball as a child.[3] He grew up a fan of the Baltimore Bullets and Buddy Jeannette, recollecting in 1994:

When I was a kid growing up in Govans and Buddy was the leader of the Bullets, I was such a fan of his. Those were the early days of TV. We kids used to stand outside J.V. Stout's electronics store on York Road and watch through the window on little black-and-white TVs.[4]


As a prospect in 1950, Shue was lightly recruited by University of Maryland's newly hired coach Bud Millikan. However, he wanted to play for the more-established programs at Loyola or Georgetown. After getting turned down by Loyola and getting wait listed by Georgetown after two underwhelming tryouts, Shue opted to instead play for Maryland.[5] Shue did not receive a scholarship and instead worked odds jobs, including cleaning the basketball court (only receiving a scholarship his senior season).[5] Joining a program with Coach Millikan that had losing records in eight of its last 10 seasons, Shue later remarked:

When Bud took over the program, there really was no program. Boxing was more important than basketball. We had a terrific boxing team at the time and they would feature the boxing match [as the featured event] if we had a doubleheader."[6]

In his tenure with Maryland, he and Milikan led the school's team to new heights, including their first 20-plus win regular season (23 his senior year), their first appearance in national rankings (peaked at #13 in 1954), and entrance into the Atlantic Coast Conference.[7]

He left Maryland as its star player[8] and their first high-profile NBA prospect. He broke all of the school scoring records and made the All-ACC team.[9]


After graduation, he was drafted 3rd overall in the 1954 NBA draft by the Philadelphia Warriors. After just six games with the Warriors Shue was sold to the New York Knicks,[10] after notifying then-owner Eddie Gottlieb that his paycheck was $10 short.[11]

After the 1955-56 season Shue was traded to the Fort Wayne Pistons for Ron Sobie. In 1956-57 season he played his first season (third season in the league) for the Pistons.

The franchise moved to Detroit the following season. Shue recalled the struggles during the opening game at the Olympia. "There were so many delays during the game because the floor was slippery from the ice below it, a problem that often happened. I didn't like playing there because it was a large building with small crowds and you were always freezing your butt off."[12] In Detroit, Shue blossomed as a player and became popular enough for the P.A. to develop the catchphrase "Two for Shue."[13] He started a streak of five All-Star Game appearances and five playoff berths.

In 1959-60 season he recorded 22.8 pts/game (6th-most in the NBA) (1,712 pts) and 5.5 rebounds/game, leading the NBA in minutes (3,338) and finishing second in free throw percentage (.872) while earning All-NBA First Team honors. He played 11 complete games during a season and tied the league with 3,338 minutes played.[13] The following year, he may have had his most complete year ever, averaging 4.3 rebounds/game, 6.8 assists/game (4th in the NBA) (530 assists also 4th) and 22.6 points/game (10th-most in the NBA) (1,765 pts). He also marked his highest field goal percentage (.421) and was named to the All-NBA Second Team. The 1961-62 season was his last one as star player; he averaged 19.0 pts/game and 5.8 assists/game (5th in the NBA) (465 assists also 5th).

In 1962, Shue was traded back to the New York Knicks for Darrall Imhoff and cash.[13][14] In 1963, Shue was traded along with Paul Hogue to the Baltimore Bullets for Bill McGill.

Coaching and executive career

As Shue moved on from playing, Shue would start an NBA coaching career that would last over 22 years. He developed a reputation for helping bad teams become competitive.[9] In 1986, LA Times remarked, "Gene Shue has lost more games than any coach in National Basketball Assn. history, which is more of a testimony of Shue's coaching ability than a criticism. Anybody who can lose 768 games--he has won 757--and still be employed must be a good coach."[15]

Baltimore Bullets

In his first stint, the then 35-year-old led the Baltimore Bullets took over a 4-21 team mid-season leading them to a dismal 16-40 record. Two seasons later, he led the franchise the best record in the league, also the franchise's first winning season.[16] He oversaw the team's improvement with three 50-plus-win seasons and an Eastern Conference Championship in 1970-71.[17] He guided the Bullets to the NBA Finals in 1971 but got swept by the Kareem Abdul-Jabbar/Oscar Robertson-led Milwaukee Bucks.

Philadelphia 76ers

He famously took over the Philadelphia 76ers after a season with a then-record 73 losses.[18] Under his tenure, the team increased their total from 25 games, then 34, then 46, and 50 with an Eastern Conference Championship. For the 76ers' 50-win 1976-77 season, Shue led a talented team with raised expectations, that Turquoise Erving (wife of Julius Erving) would lament in March 1977, "I feel we have the talent to win, but I don't think they're playing much like a team. No one here respects Shue. How many guys want to win one for Shue? Not one. And sometimes not even for themselves."[19] Although reaching the Finals, they eventually lost to the Bill Walton-led Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA Finals, a devastating loss as Shue had spent much of the season dealing with in-fighting among the team's many stars.[20] Shue was fired six games into the next 1977-78 season, having clashed with new owner Fitz Dixon[21] despite raising the expectations to a championship.[17] The team went as far to start an "We Owe You One' advertising campaign in reaction to the loss.[20][22]

San Diego / Los Angeles Clippers

In the next season, Shue joined the newly relocated San Diego Clippers and surprised the league with a 43-39 record and a near-playoff berth.[23] He was fired the next season after an 11-game losing streak.[24]

Second stints

In 1987, he returned to Bullets,[25] who had since re-located to Washington, D.C., where he would coach for six seasons.[15] He would end his coaching career by returning to Clippers, who had once again relocated to Los Angeles.

Shue finished his coaching career with a regular season record of 784-861 while going 30-47 in the playoffs.[26] His 784 wins are the 16th-most in NBA history and his 861 losses are the sixth-most in NBA history.[27] He won NBA Coach of the Year in both 1968 and 1981, one of nine multi-time recipients. He was the Eastern Conference Coach for two All-Star Games, in 1969 and 1977.

After his final coaching position, Shue opted to move to California to become vice president of a mortgage business and work for a bank, while also serving as an analyst for ESPN on Continental Basketball Association games.[28] He would soon be chosen as the GM for the 76ers.[29][30] He was infamously the target of Charles Barkley, who called Shue "a clown" as part of Barkley's effort to force a trade out of the team,[31] and rumored tampering from executives from other teams.[32]

In 2009, Shue was stated to be living in Marina del Rey, California and serving as a scout for the 76ers.[33]


As A Player

Shue's dynamic guard play was influential for the newly formed NBA. He was known as a "gunner" who also played superb defense.[13] His flair for dribbling and weaving was not the norm of the time, but would later become so for point guards.[34] He had an ability to drive to the basket and use acrobatics to score or pass.[35] His twisting layup wowed competitors, Elgin Baylor describing it as "tricky" [36] He was one of the few players of his time to have a jump shot instead of a set shot (a habit from his grammar school's low ceiling)[37], and to emphasize transitional offense.[1] He invented the "spin move", the 360-degree spin with the ball switching hands.[37] An advocate for skill-based play, he once posited that "a basketball team composed of little men up to 6 feet 5 inches could beat a team of tall men 6 feet 5 inches and over."[38]

As a Coach

Throughout his coaching career, Shue was known for his mix of fundamental basketball and unconventional strategies, many of which went against the norms of the time, but were sometimes adopted in future generations. His infamous playbooks were both celebrated for their innovation and maligned for their heftiness.[39][40][41][42] In 1988, Gerald Henderson declared, "Gene Shue's teams always control the tempo."[43] stated that Shue was one of the only coaches that embraced and set plays for the then-controversial three-point shots when the line was first introduced, stating that Shue "gave the shot the green light and red carpet."[44] At times, he had his team's center bring up the ball.[45]George McGinnis describing the merits of Shue's coaching philosophy, said, "He has a lot of plays that use my individual talent and a lot of plays for the team."[46]Earl Monroe noted Shue's ability to get star players, like Monroe himself, to adapt their flashy skills to sound, fundamental team play (noting the perceived racial segregation in styles of play of the time).[47]Spencer Haywood described Shue's ability to instill confidence "My guy was Gene Shue, and still is Gene Shue, who had the faith in me to say, "Take this team, and let's go." [48]Bill Walton wrote in his autobiography that Shue "was awesome, always so positive, upbeat, imaginative, and extremely creative."[49]

In 1980, Sports Illustrated suggested that Shue "might be the reigning expert on the rehabilitation of players, judging from his penchant for taking in the league's rejects and wayward souls."[50] In 2009, Fox Sports listed him as one of ten great players who became great coaches, noting that Shue "specialized in improving the fortunes of bad ball clubs, which is the only reason why he lost so many games."[51] Although his lifelong tendency to seek out challenging situations to turnaround has resulted in less wins, trophies, and accolades as both a player and a coach; in 1987, he remarked, "I think when you come into any losing situation, the first thing you have to bring with you is a positive attitude, one that your players can begin to believe in. Not that I ignore problems. I'm both optimistic and realistic. I have always been honest. I don't try to kid people."[52] In 1989, the LA Times stated, "Gene Shue has proven to be one of the best coaches the NBA has ever had."[53]

Post-career honors

In 1991, he was inducted to University of Maryland's Hall of Fame.[54]

Shue's was first on a ballot as a coach for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1994, but was not elected. He was nominated and failed in 1995.[55] He was re-introduced in the Contributor category, where he was nominated, but not inducted, in 2011,[56]2012[57], and 2013 [58],

His career includes over 40 years in the NBA, although split as player, coach, and executive.[4]Bleacher Report listed him first on their list of coaches not in the Hall of Fame, but factored his playing career).[59] Shue is one of two retired coaches (alongside Cotton Fitzsimmons) to have NBA Coach of the Year on multiple occasions but not be elected to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.[60]

Personal life

Gene Shue is married to Sandy Shue. In 1985, when asked about the effect of basketball on home life, Sandy Shue remarked, "People think he's got the most violent temper. They say, 'He must be an absolute bear to live with.' When we first began dating I really didn't like it. If he lost a basketball game he wouldn't speak to anyone, even me. Now he pretends like things are okay, but he still stays awake all night."[61] As of 2009, they live together in Marina Del Rey, California.

He is the godfather of Danny Ferry[62][63], who would similarly become an NBA Player and Executive.

NBA career statistics

Regular season

1954-55 Philadelphia 6 10.8 .200 .833 1.7 1.8 1.8
1954-55 New York 56 15.8 .354 .750 2.6 1.4 4.4
1955-56 New York 72 24.3 .384 .764 2.9 2.5 9.2
1956-57 Fort Wayne 72 34.3 .385 .763 5.8 3.3 10.9
1957-58 Detroit 63 37.0 .384 .844 5.3 2.7 15.6
1958-59 Detroit 72 38.1 .388 .803 4.7 3.2 17.6
1959-60 Detroit 75 44.5 .413 .872 5.5 3.9 22.8
1960-61 Detroit 78 43.1 .421 .856 4.3 6.8 22.6
1961-62 Detroit 80 39.3 .408 .810 4.7 5.8 19.0
1962-63 New York 78 29.3 .396 .689 2.4 3.3 11.7
1963-64 Baltimore 47 20.5 .293 .590 2.0 3.2 4.2
Career 699 33.4 .396 .806 4.1 3.7 14.4
All-Star 5 26.0 .569 .667 4.0 3.8 13.2


1955 New York 3 16.3 .471 .857 4.0 1.3 7.3
1957 Fort Wayne 2 39.5 .519 1.000 3.5 4.0 16.0
1958 Detroit 7 40.1 .366 .930 6.6 4.7 18.6
1959 Detroit 3 39.3 .467 .818 4.7 3.3 27.7
1960 Detroit 2 44.5 .395 .900 6.0 3.0 24.0
1961 Detroit 5 37.2 .486 .793 2.4 4.4 18.6
1962 Detroit 10 36.9 .411 .771 3.0 4.9 16.1
Career 32 36.6 .424 .842 4.2 4.1 17.8


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  2. ^ Klingaman, Mike (March 15, 2019). "From 1968 to 1969, the Baltimore Bullets went from worst to first". Retrieved 2019.
  3. ^ Klingaman, Mike (December 3, 2009). "Catching Up With ... former Bullet Gene Shue". Retrieved 2019.
  4. ^ a b Tanton, Bill. "City celebrates with Jeannette".
  5. ^ a b Ungrady, Dave (October 14, 2014). Tales from the Maryland Terrapins: A Collection of the Greatest Terrapin Stories Ever Told. ISBN 978-1-61321-746-7.
  6. ^ Markus, Don; Williams, Gary (November 2016). 100 Things Maryland Fans Should Know & do Before They die. ISBN 978-1-63319-662-9.
  7. ^ Ungrady, Dave (October 14, 2014). Tales from the Maryland Terrapins: A Collection of the Greatest Terrapin Stories Ever Told. ISBN 978-1-61321-746-7.
  8. ^ "Bud Millikan with Gene Shue, ca. 1953-1967 - Digital Collections @ the University of Maryland".
  9. ^ a b Klingaman, Mike. "Catching Up With ... former Bullet Gene Shue".
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  15. ^ a b "The NBA : Shue's Firing Is Raising Some Questions". Los Angeles Times. March 25, 1986.
  16. ^
  17. ^ a b "Filling These Shoes Shouldn't Be Tough, Just Uncomfortable". Los Angeles Times. October 4, 1987.
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  24. ^ "CLIPPERS FIRE SHUE, NAME CASEY - The Washington Post".
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  38. ^ Jemail, Jimmy. "The Question: Do you agree with Gene Shue of the Fort Wayne Pistons who says that a basketball team composed of little men up to 6 feet 5 inches could beat a team of tall men 6 feet 5 inches and over?". Vault.
  39. ^ Columnist, By Stan Hochman, Daily News. "Doctor J's career has been a work of art".
  40. ^ "Hard Part of Learning Is Losing for the Clippers : Shue Focuses on Improvement in Second Half of 108-91 Defeat at Cleveland". Los Angeles Times. November 10, 1988.
  41. ^ "Bullets Learning to Be Patient While Teaching Bol the Offense". Washington Post. October 2, 1985. Retrieved 2019.
  42. ^ Columnist, By Stan Hochman, Daily News. "Doctor J's life an open book".
  44. ^ "Doubt, disdain marked most NBA teams' first forays into 3-point land |".
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  50. ^ McDermott, Barry. "WELCOME BACK, STRANGER". Vault.
  51. ^ Aug 28, foxsports; ET, 2009 at 5:56p (August 28, 2009). "Greatness doesn't carry over from court to bench". FOX Sports.
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  53. ^ "Firing Gene Shue Was Clippers' Biggest Blunder". Los Angeles Times. January 28, 1989.
  54. ^ "Gene Shue (1991) - Hall of Fame". University of Maryland Athletics.
  55. ^ Litsky, Frank (February 7, 1995). "PRO BASKETBALL; Abdul-Jabbar Hits Again: Elected to Basketball Hall" – via
  56. ^ Information, USF Sports. "Stanford grad Azzi nominated for Naismith Hall of Fame".
  57. ^ "Reggie Miller gets second shot at Hall of Fame".
  58. ^ "Dick Motta again a Hall of Fame nominee". The Salt Lake Tribune.
  59. ^ Nix, J. W. "NBA Rankings: The Five Best Coaches Not in the Hall of Fame". Bleacher Report.
  60. ^ "NBA & ABA Coach of the Year Award Winners".
  61. ^ "Gene Shue: Forever a Competitor". December 11, 1985 – via
  62. ^ "Bullpen Is Baffled by Throwin' Voice". Los Angeles Times. August 12, 1989.
  63. ^ "The Court Jester : Ferry's the Name, Practical Jokes Are Just Part of His Game". Los Angeles Times. December 20, 1988.

External links

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