Gene Banks is one of the most celebrated basketball players to ever play in this city. Banks, former West Philadelphia High All-American, had a tremendous high school, college and professional basketball career.
He will be recognized by The Philadelphia Association of Black Sports and Culture, Inc. at its sixth annual Legends banquet on Sunday, Sept. 30. The event will be held at the Oaks Ballroom, 511 Oak Lane in Glenolden (Delaware County). The program will begin at 2 p.m.
In addition to Banks, other legends will be honored including Wilt Chamberlain (posthumously), who starred at Overbrook High, Kansas, Harlem Globetrotters, Philadelphia 76ers and Los Angeles Lakers; C. Vivian Stringer, women’s head basketball coach at Rutgers and Hall of Famer, who also coached at Cheyney State; Norman Oliver, director of the “Stormin Norman” Basketball League in Wilmington, Del.; Mark Sills, president/founder of Urban Youth Inc. in Wilmington; Larry Wilson, Gwynedd Mercy track coach and Dr. Shirley Turpin Parham (posthumously), educator and historian.
“I’m really honored to be in this select group,” Banks said. “I’m really happy and proud. It’s a great feeling. I remember when Vivian Stringer was coaching at Cheyney. She was a great coach there. She was a great advocate for women’s sports. It’s an honor and a great pleasure to be alongside her.
“Wilt was the epitome of a great all-around athlete, not just a basketball player. He took Philadelphia worldwide. I think him and Tom Gola (former La Salle, NBA star and Hall of Famer) were great players. Wilt put Philadelphia on the map all around the world. I mean from high school, college to professional basketball.”
Banks made his contributions to Philadelphia basketball as well. He played on some fabulous basketball teams at West Philadelphia High that captured Public League and city championships. He finished his high school career with an overall 79-2 record. The 1977 team completed his final scholastic season with a 30-0 mark. He has some great memories of those days with the Speedboys.
“I had some [good] times playing there,” Banks said. “I had some great teammates as well like Darryl Warwick, Clarence Tillman and Tyrell Biggs. Joe Goldenberg was an exceptional coach. There would be no Gene Banks without Joe Goldenberg. He prepared me for Duke and the ACC. He trained us like we were a college team. That really helped me when I went to Duke.”
Banks was the MVP of the 1977 McDonald’s All-American Game and the Dapper Dan Classic for High School All-Americans. He was one of the most highly recruited players in the nation. He decided to play his college basketball at Duke. He had a great career playing for the Blue Devils. In 1978, he led Duke to the NCAA Finals before losing to Kentucky. He played for two outstanding coaches, Bill Foster and Mike Krzyzewski, during his college career. He averaged 16.8 points and 7.9 rebounds a game with the Blue Devils.
“They both contributed to my game a lot,” Banks said. “I played one year for Mike. We played man-to-man at Duke. He prepared me for the NBA. Mike and I have a very solid relationship. It’s strong. Bill is like a father to me. I was fortunate to play for two great coaches.”
In 1981, Banks was selected in the second round of the NBA draft by the San Antonio Spurs. He played for the Spurs from 1981-85. He also played for the Chicago Bulls from 1985-87. He averaged 11.3 points and 5.8 rebounds over his NBA career.
“I remember scoring 44 points one game against the (Los Angeles) Lakers,” he said. “That was a tremendous game for me. We played some good basketball against the Lakers. I think all of those playoff series we had with the Lakers went down to seven games.
“I had my first triple double with Chicago. I was one of the leaders. We had Michael (Jordan). He was a young guy with a lot of talent. I was a player representative with the Bulls. I had a great relationship with a lot of guys in the NBA.”
Banks played and coached in France, Israel, Italy and Argentina. He played in the CBA for LaCrosse where he played for ex-Washington Wizards head coach Flip Saunders. He also coached women’s basketball team at Bluefield State (Bluefield, WV) and spent two years as head coach and athletic director at Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C.
Banks is currently in his second season as an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards. He’s looking forward to the upcoming NBA season, which will be here in less than a month.
“It’s the greatest experience to be able to coach on the highest level of basketball,” Banks said. “It’s been a wonderful experience for me. We had some great young players. We have a terrific player in John Wall. He’s a great talent. He’s super fast.”
Banks credits much of his success to his foundation in the Sonny Hill and the Baker League. He had a chance to play for some good people in both leagues.
“I always had a great support from the Sonny Hill and the Baker League,” he said. “I’m talking about Sonny, Tee Parham, James Flint, Bob Johnston and Hilderbrand Pelzer. These guys really molded me. I’ve been very blessed.”
Tickets for the event are $60.00. For more information, call (215) 696-9313.