Those who had the good fortune of watching Gene Littles star on the basketball court as a Washington, D.C., schoolboy had no doubts he was an ACC-caliber player.
But this was the mid-1960s and segregation was still several years away, so the silky smooth All-Metro guard from McKinley Tech High School accepted a scholarship offer to play at High Point College (now University). There he embarked on a sterling four-year career that saw him average 23.3 points per game; his career total of 2,398 points still stands as a school record.
A three-time NAIA All-America, Littles improved his overall game each year and the Panthers prospered because of it. As a senior in 1968-69, Littles led High Point to a school-best 28-3 record and the quarterfinals of the NAIA Tournament, where the Panthers lost to eventual national champion Eastern New Mexico. Fittingly, his No. 14 jersey was retired by the school.
Littles was drafted that spring by the Dallas Chaparrals of the ABA and the New York Knicks of the NBA. His ABA rights were acquired by the Carolina Cougars, and he chose to sign with Carolina, the first pro sports franchise in state history. Playing for legendary former Wake Forest coach Bones McKinney, Littles was the Cougars’ starting point guard in his first season, averaging 12.5 points per game and earning a spot on the league’s All-Rookie team. He went on to play professionally for three more seasons, finishing his career as a member of the Kentucky Colonels squad that defeated the Indiana Pacers to win the 1975 ABA championship.
That summer, Littles joined Bobby Cremins’ staff at Appalachian State as an assistant coach. Within a couple of years he was named the head coach at North Carolina A&T, where he led the Aggies to two Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference titles and was honored, in 1978-79, as the league’s Coach of the Year.
For the next 18 seasons, Littles served as either an assistant coach or a head coach in the NBA. His three stints as a head coach came with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Charlotte Hornets and Denver Nuggets, but he perhaps made his biggest mark as an assistant, teaching guards the finer points of playing well at the sport’s highest level.
Littles furthered his already strong relationship in North Carolina during his many years with the Hornets. In addition to his time as head coach, his duties included serving as an assistant coach, director of player personnel, vice president, and special assistant to the president. In 1999, Littles was hired by the Seattle Supersonics as an advance scout, and he retired from that role and the NBA in 2006.
Littles and his wife, Yvette, live in Scottsdale, Ariz.. The couple has three sons: Darren, Travis and Gino.
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