Ex-Hornets coach, ABA player Gene Littles dies at 78

Gene Littles, whose career spanned three decades as an assistant and head coach in the NBA, has died at the age of 78.

Littles died Sept. 9, according to a release by High Point University, where Littles remains the Panthers’ all-time leading scorer. A cause of death was not given.

Littles scored 2,398 points from 1965-69 at High Point.

Littles averaged 9.0 points per game in six years in the ABA and went on to become a head coach in the NBA, including 1 1/2 seasons with the Charlotte Hornets. He finished with a record of 44-111 as head coach of the Hornets (1989-91), Cleveland Cavaliers (1985-86) and Denver Nuggets (1994-95).

“We are saddened by the passing of another legend of our High Point University Athletic family in Gene Littles,” current High Point head coach Tubby Smith said in a statement. “Gene was the best player in High Point University Basketball history. He was a true gentleman, a great competitor, and a classy individual. He was a role model for me and many other collegiate and professional athletes. Gene was a proud ambassador for our alma mater and he represented the values of High Point University throughout his career. We will always remember Gene and honor his legacy. Our sincerest condolences and best wishes to his family, friends, and loved ones.”

Littles was a three-time NAIA All-American at High Point and had his No. 14 retired by the school. He was the first Black student-athlete to live on campus at High Point College, located in High Point, N.C.

Littles also went 40-15 in two seasons (1977-79) as head coach at North Carolina A&T.

Littles was an assistant coach with the Utah Jazz, Cavaliers, Hornets and Nuggets, beginning in 1979 through 1997.