Gene Rhodes, RIP

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Gene Rhodes, RIP

Postby rlee » Mon Mar 12, 2018 9:50 pm


Gene Rhodes, former coach and general manager of the American Basketball Association Kentucky Colonels and former point guard for the National Basketball Association Indianapolis Olympians, died March 10, 2018 at Norton Hospice Care in his home town of Louisville, Kentucky at the age of 90.

An intense competitor, Rhodes will be remembered as a player on, coach of, or assembler of talent for championship-caliber teams at every level – high school, college, and professional.

As the Colonels’ general manager, he was the architect of their first and only ABA championship team in 1975, which Hubie Brown has called the best team he ever coached.

At Louisville Male High School, Rhodes was a three-sport athlete and a teammate of Ralph Beard – his closest friend throughout his life – on the 1945 Kentucky state high school championship basketball team.

Following service in the U.S. Army after high school, Rhodes attended Western Kentucky University, where he played on three consecutive Ohio Valley Conference championship teams, all of which appeared in the National Invitational Tournament, and also pitched on the baseball team. Upon graduation, he was drafted by the NBA’s Indianapolis franchise and appeared in 65 games in the 1952-53 season, averaging 5.2 points per game.

The Indianapolis franchise disbanded after that season, and Rhodes took coaching jobs first at Trinity High School in Louisville for a year, and then at St. Xavier High School, which he led to the school’s first Kentucky high school state championship in 1958. He later coached for two years at Male High School in 1962 and 1963, and as an assistant to Johnny Oldham at Western Kentucky from 1964 through 1967.

Early in the 1967-68 season, Rhodes was named head coach of the Kentucky Colonels, replacing Johnny Givens. He compiled a 118-105 record in his first three seasons and led the team to successively higher finishes in the Eastern Division. The Colonels began the 1970-71 season in first place with a 10-5 record but Rhodes was fired when new general manager Mike Storen took over operations.

When John Y. Brown, a shareholder in the franchise, acquired the Colonels in full in 1973, Rhodes was brought back to the team as general manager and was instrumental in putting together its first and only ABA championship team, coached by Hubie Brown, in 1975. Rhodes was then elevated to VP operations for the 1975-76 season.

After that season, the ABA folded as a result of the Oscar Robertson court settlement with the NBA that had originally been filed by the NBA Players Association to prevent the two leagues from merging until certain conditions were remedied.

Even though the Colonels had the highest winning percentage in the ABA in both the regular season and the playoffs, Kentucky was not among the teams absorbed by the NBA. Instead, owner John Y. Brown took a buyout which he then applied to the purchase of the NBA Buffalo Braves.

Following his coaching and managerial career, Rhodes formed his own company that sold awards, gifts and incentives in the high school, college, and corporate markets, and remained active in that field until shortly before his death.

He is a member of the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame, the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame, the Western Kentucky University Athletic Hall of Fame and the Western Kentucky Hall of Distinguished Alumni.

No details are yet available regarding funeral services or a memorial service.

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