Original Pistons star point guard Gene Shue dies at 90, lived a 'charmed life'

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

One of the first stars in Detroit Pistons history has died.

Gene Shue, who moved with Fort Wayne to Detroit in the 1950s, made five All-Star teams with the Pistons and was a member of the franchise's 50th-anniversary all-time team, died at the age of 90, the NBA confirmed Monday.

Shue spent more than 40 years in professional basketball, as a player, coach and executive.

Gene Shue, an original Piston and long-time NBA coach, has died at 90.

"I've had a charmed life, to be able to pursue the thing I really love," Shue told the Baltimore Sun in 2009.

"I've been blessed."

Shue played 10 seasons in the NBA, and was the third overall pick by the Philadelphia Warriors in 1954 after a stellar collegiate career at Maryland. He played six games with Philadelphia before he was sold to the New York Knicks, for whom he played from 1954-56 and again from 1962-63. 

In between Knicks stints, Shue played for Fort Wayne before owner Fred Zollner moved the team to Detroit following the 1956-57 season.

Shue was an All-Star all five seasons he played in Detroit, averaging 22.8 points in 1959-60 and 22.6 and 6.8 assists in 1960-61. On some forgettable Pistons teams — they made the playoffs in Shue's five seasons, despite having a losing record each year — Shue was a star at point guard.

Every time he would score in Detroit, whether at Olympia Stadium or Cobo Arena, the public-address announcer would say, "Two for Shue!"

"“The Detroit Pistons are saddened by news of the passing of Gene Shue — a five-time NBA All-Star, two-time All-NBA performer and member of the franchise’s 50th Anniversary All-Time team," the Pistons said in a statement. "During his tenure with the Pistons, he led the club in scoring once and finished second in his other four seasons.

"He was a great ambassador for the game and a great representative of the Pistons.

"We extend our heartfelt condolences to the Shue family.”

Gene Shue (21) with the Pistons.

In 1962, Detroit traded Shue back to the Knicks; he finished his playing career with the Baltimore Bullets during the 1963-64 season. Over his 10 seasons, he averaged 14.4 points. For his career, he scored 10,068 points and had 2,855 rebounds and 2,608 assists. He also was known for his defense.

He quickly transitioned to coaching in 1966, and had stints with the Baltimore Bullets (1966-73), Philadelphia 76ers (1973-77), San Diego Clippers (1978-80), Washington Bullets (1980-86) and Los Angeles Clippers (1987-89). Twice, in 1969 and 1982, he was NBA coach of the year, and he also coached two All-Star Games.

After a brief stint with ESPN, Shue became general manager of the 76ers, with whom he famously feuded with star player Charles Barkley.

Shue was known for his temper. He took the game very seriously.

"If he lost a basketball game he wouldn't speak to anyone, even me," his former wife, Sandy, once told the Washington Post. "When we first began dating I really didn't like it."

The NBA said in a statement posted to Twitter: "Gene dedicated his life to the game and left an indelible mark as a player, head coach and executive. We extend our deepest condolences to the Shue family."

Shue, the godfather of former NBA player and executive Danny Ferry, is in the Maryland athletics Hall of Fame, but has missed out five times on the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame ballot.

Details on funeral arrangements weren't immediately available. He lived his later years in California.

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Twitter: tonypaul1984