Each week in The Toy Department, veteran Baltimore Sun sporrtswriter Mike Klingaman tracks down a former local sports figure and lets you know what's happening in his/her life in a segment called, "Catching Up With ... " Let Klingaman know who you'd like him to find and click here to check out previous editions of "Catching Up With ... "
He grew up in Govans, a poor kid on welfare who never owned a basketball. But that didn't stop Gene Shue from making his name in the game.
He starred at Towson Catholic and then at Maryland, where Shue broke all of the Terps' scoring records and made All-American. A first-round draft pick in 1954, he played a decade in the pros, earning a rep as a defensive guard and making the All-Star team five times.
Then Shue moved to coaching where, over 22 years, he developed a knack for turning train-wreck pro teams into winners. Twice, he was named NBA Coach of the Year.
Plucked No. 1 by the Philadelphia Warriors – he was the third pick in the NBA draft – Shue played for several teams but sparkled with Detroit (1957-1962). Twice, he averaged more than 22 points a game.
His proudest moment? Scoring a career-high 45 points against the dynastic Celtics in Boston Garden. It wasn't easy.
"They (Celtics) had the best defensive team in the league," Shue said. "You could never score a layup against Boston. (Center) Bill Russell was always in the lane and there was no three-second violation."
Traded to the new Baltimore franchise in 1963, Shue played one year with the Bullets and retired here. Three years later, the club hired him in midseason to coach his lowly hometown team.
In one season, the Bullets leaped from worst to first in their division. Led by Unseld, Earl Monroe and Gus Johnson, they won four East titles in Shue's seven years.