A member of the Western Kentucky athletic hall of fame and a first-team all-state guard out of Male High School in Louisville, Gene Rhodes died Saturday at the age of 90.
Rhodes was a standout basketball and baseball player at WKU. The four Hilltopper basketball teams he played on won 95 of 120 games and were a combined 31-7 in Ohio Valley Conference action. Rhodes was a fifth-round draft pick by the Indianapolis Olympians of the NBA and he played one season of pro ball.
A pitcher, Rhodes was a key figure in two of the finest Hilltopper baseball teams on record, the 1951 (13-5) and 1952 (11-3 and OVC champs) clubs. His four teams were a collective 32-20-1
After an outstanding career as coach at St Xavier and Male High Schools in Louisville, Rhodes returned to The Hill in 1964 as a member of coach John Oldham’s coaching staff and was a key factor in the successes of the great Clem Haskins-led Hilltopper teams of the mid-1960s.
The four Topper teams he was involved with were 84-22 overall and 46-10 in OVC contests, winning two conference crowns and finishing second and third in the league the other two years. The 1965 team played in the NIT while the ‘66 and ‘67 clubs made appearances in the NCAA Tournament.
The ‘66 team was ranked 10th in the nation in the final Associated Press poll and the ‘67 Toppers were 6th in the land in that final poll. He also coached the Topper baseball team for one season (1965) as well.
Rhodes returned to his native Louisville in 1968 to take over as coach of the Kentucky Colonels of the ABA, a position he held into the ‘70-71 season. Afterward he remained on the Colonels staff as the team’s general manager.
He was inducted into the WKU athletic hall of fame in 1998.