BALTIMORE-BORN and reared Gene Shue is looking forward to a homecoming next Wednesday night when the Philadelphia 76ers -- he's their first-year general manager -- come to the Arena to play the Bullets.
Shue, who remains the Bullets' all-time winningest coach with 522 victories, is enjoying a rare experience this year: He's with a winner. Gene spent a lot of years coaching NBA doormat teams and building them up to respectability (he took the Baltimore Bullets and the Sixers from the depths to the league championship game). His present Sixers are 16-8 despite having lost point guard Johnny Dawkins for the year in the fourth game.
Shue, who began his NBA career when he was drafted out of Maryland by the old Philadelphia Warriors in 1954, spent last season as a TV broadcaster in the Continental Basketball Association.
"That paid off for us," Shue says. "I picked up a player from the CBA, Andre Turner, and he's really helped us."
Shue always did know how to find talent where no one else could. He once brought to Baltimore a player named Earl Monroe from little Winston-Salem College. Now Earl the Pearl is in the Hall of Fame.
* David Robinson realizes how lucky he is to be leading the San Antonio Spurs to first place in the NBA's Midwest Division instead of being on a ship somewhere in the Persian Gulf. That's where the 7-footer might be spending this Christmas if he hadn't grown 7 inches while he was an undergraduate at the Naval Academy.
"It's in the back of my mind," says Robinson. "Three or four of my friends from the academy are out there, maybe more. I think about those guys every day. I just consider myself to be very fortunate to be here."
* Not only is Towson State grad Kurk Lee hanging on as a rookie with the New Jersey Nets; he's playing ahead of No. 1 draft pick Tate George, from the University of Connecticut. Towson coach Terry Truax and his staff feel the longer Lee stays with the Nets the better his chances of making them appreciate his considerable talent.
* Jim Huelskamp, the only member of the pro indoor lacrosse Baltimore Thunder who has been on the team for all five years of its existence, has an interesting perspective on the fabulous Gait twins, Gary and Paul, who'll play for Detroit at the Arena a week from tomorrow.
Says Huelskamp: "The Gaits are great. They proved that by leading Syracuse to the NCAA championship the last three years. But they're very physical players and in college they were playing against 19- and 20-year-olds. In this league they'll be going against 27- and 28-year-old men. It ought to make a difference. Anyway, this is the best Thunder team we've had and I think we'll do well against anybody. We've already beaten the two-time league champions [Philadelphia] in an exhibition game."
* If you can remember Harmon Killebrew and Bob Allison, who played at Memorial Stadium many times for the old Senators and the Twins, it's hard to believe where they are now. Though they appeared indestructible -- Killebrew a human tree trunk, Allison 6 feet 3, 205 pounds with knickers bloused at his knees to show off his powerful calves -- both are hospitalized in Arizona with serious illnesses. Veteran Washington columnist Mo Siegel reports that Allison, 56, is terminal with afixia, a brain disease similar to Lou Gehrig's disease. Killebrew, 54, has had two major operations for a bleeding ulcer and a perforated esophagus. Killebrew, confined to a wheelchair, developed a staph infection that spread to his legs, doctors at one point considering amputation.
* To all those who think Baltimore will get an NFL franchise, though "not in the first expansion" in '93, be advised that at this time there is no second expansion set for '95. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue says it's "premature" now to talk about '95. We'd better pull out all the stops in pursuit of one of the two franchises in the first expansion.
* Elmer Bright, in retirement now after many years teaching and coaching the line for Poly's football team, was awed when he watched the Engineers play Loyola this year and saw 250-pounders on the Loyola line. Elmer might have had another heart attack if he'd seen St. John's of Washington offensive lineman Wayne Holmes. He's 6-6, 360, and being heavily recruited by Maryland.