Tony Yates: Former University of Cincinnati basketball player and coach dies at 82 – The Cincinnati Enquirer

Posted: May 17, 2020 at 10:42 pm


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Tony Yates will go down as animportant figurein University of Cincinnati basketball history, having been a part of the program for three decades.

He had two distinct careers with the Bearcats: His mega-successful time as a player in the 1960s and his frustrating years as UCs head coach in the 1980s.

Yates, a member of the UC James P. Kelly Athletics Hall of Fame (inducted in 1985) and the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame (2020), died Saturday night at age 82, it was confirmed by JCBattle &Sons Funeral Home.

Born in September 1937 in Lawrenceburg, Indiana, Yates was a 1954 graduate of Lockland Wayne High School and helped lead the school to the 1952 state championship with his brother Fletcher.

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Yates turned down partial scholarship offers to play basketball from Cincinnati and Xavier University because he was disappointed not to get full scholarship offers. He worked and played for a barnstorming all-star basketball team for the year,then joined the United States Air Force. In 1958, he got married, and in 1959, he accepted a partial scholarship offer from UC, with a chance to play with all-time great Oscar Robertson.

Who wouldnt want to be associated with him? Yates said in the book Tales from Cincinnati Bearcats Basketball.

Yates was considered an instant leader on the Bearcats freshmen team and went on to average 7.4 points (1960-61), 8.2 points (1961-62) and 7.6 points (1962-63) in his three seasons on varsity. As a senior team captain, he was chosen third-team All-America by The Associated Press and first-team all-Missouri Valley Conference.

As a sophomore, Yateswas 23 years old and nicknamed Gramps. He assumed the role of starting point guard and was considered Ed Jucker's coach on the floor.

When George Wilson arrived to play for UC in 1960, he said, there were only a few African American players, including Yates, Paul Hogue and Tom Thacker. They were all older than Wilson. He said Hogue and Thacker were like my big brothers and Tony was like papa.

Wilson looked to Yates for guidance about life as a minority in Cincinnati.

"We always did what he said to do and always followed his advice, Wilson said.

Yateshelped lead the Bearcats to their national championships in 1961 and 1962 and a runner-up finish in 1963. He won UCs teamBest Defensive Player award all three years during which UC's teams went 82-7. Yates and Thacker are the only players in program history to play in three NCAA championship games.

Cincinnati starters from 1961-1962 team standing up: Coach Ed Jucker. kneeling left to right: Ron Bonham, Capt. Tony Yates, George Wilson and Tom Thacker. They were the 1962 NCAA championship team.(Photo: Enquirer file)

The St. Louis Hawks was selected Yates 41st overall in the fifth round of the 1963 NBA draft.

At UC, Yateswas also a member of Sigma Sigma mens honorary.

Yates was an assistant coach at UC underTay Baker andGale Catlett from 1972-74. He left to become an assistant to Gene Bartow at theUniversity of Illinoisin 1974-75. He then became Lou Hensons assistant and was at Illinois for a total of nine seasons, earning a reputation as strong recruiter and helping the Illini to two NCAA Tournaments and two National Invitation Tournaments.

But what Yates always wanted was to be UCs head coach. He said he applied for the job in 1972 when Catlett was hired and in 1978 when Ed Badger was chosen. Finally, in 1983, Yates was hired to replace Badger.

It was a very happy moment, Yates said in the UC basketball book. I was going home.

Yates was tearful at his introductory press conference when he received a standing ovation.

That day Robertson told The Enquirer: Am I happy? You bet. He knows the game. He knows how to recruit. Hes just what we need.

JANUARY 1, 1988: Pete Gillen (left) and Tony Yates hold the Crosstown Shootout trophy.(Photo: Enquirer file)

Yates'six years as head coach did not go as planned. His teams finished 70-100 overall with just two winning seasons 17-14 with an NIT berth in 1984-85 and 15-12 in 1988-89. He was then fired andreplaced by Bob Huggins.

He did not coach again.

"I had my fling," Yatessaid in the UC basketball book. "I didwhat I wanted to do. I wanted to coach at the University ofCincinnati. Im very pleased, very blessed, and very happy aboutwhat we had done. There were a lot of very special momentswith a lot of special people. There are a lot of great, great memories.

Hewill forever be rememberedasthe architect behind UCs stall-ball gameagainst the University of Kentucky in December 1983. UK ended up winning 24-11. It was Yates eighth game as a head coach. The Bearcats were 1-6, and the Wildcats were No. 2 in the country.

The game was on national TV. On game day, Yatestold the players the plan was to hold the ball on every possession until they had a chance for a layup. I thought the only way we had a chance to win, was to do what we did, Yates said in the book. And they did it to the letter.

Yates also will be remembered for recruiting three of UC's1,000-point scorers: Roger McClendon, Louis Banksand LevertisRobinson. McClendon and Banks are among the program's top10 all-time scorers.

"He was very stern in his values and what he thoughtwas important," McClendon said Sunday. "He was a family man. He taught people about life. People called him stubborn in a way, but what he went through in the military to battling racism, to being in sales, and then getting the privilege to be a coach ... he came from the school of hard knocks.

"He was the pillar. He gave back, volunteeredin the community. Hes going to be missed. He was our leader, and people really respected him."

Yates contributed to the community with theTony Yates Caring For Kids Foundation, anon-profit designed "to uplift, assist, and train youth and their families."

There also is theTony Yates Junior Golf Academy.According to the Cincinnati Recreation Commission web site, it "uses the game of golf to teach discipline, encourage personal growth and self esteem and also fosters personal success for the boys and girls attending. The program provides golf instruction along with life skill training to enable participants to become better, more productive citizens."

SEPTEMBER 29, 2005: Two former UC basketball coaches: Tony Yates introduces some friends to Bob Huggins as they talk backstage. US Bank Arena was the site of a roast/salute to fired former University of Cincinnati Basketball Coach Bob Huggins.(Photo: The Enquirer/Michael E. Keating)

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Tony Yates: Former University of Cincinnati basketball player and coach dies at 82 - The Cincinnati Enquirer

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