Most of what is written or said about Gene is done by people who never saw him play or who knew nothing about his accomplishments as a beach or indoor player.
Let’s take the beach first. I played on the beach and indoors with Gene for over 20 years. He was the most dominating player on the beach from 1950 to 1965. We played together for seven years and won 70% of the tournaments we entered. The last win we had he was 35 years old.
He passed most every serve with his hands (something that isn’t done today). He hit with incredible power. Gene was the he most difficult player to dig I played against and without a doubt the best defensive player (though Gene would give that honor to Bernie Holtzman). On top of that he had a wicked roundhouse serve—when everyone else served a flat serve. He was also a great mixed doubles player at a time when the guy stood in the middle of the court and the woman was under the net.
Now for the indoors. In 1955 Gene was named to the 1st team All World all – tournament team played in Europe. Upon his return to the U.S. he dedicated himself to making the US a power on the world stage. To do this he fought for years with the powers that be in the USVBA to play international VB rules. A battle that he didn’t win because of politics.
In 1957 he left the Hollywood YMCA team to form his own so he could play international rules. He was the key player on that team and the coach, Harry Wilson, held that against him for years; costing Gene a spot on the 1964 Olympic team.
His relentless pursuit of this goal finally paid off in 1960 with winning the USVBA Championship in 1960. The difference in the rules mainly had to do with bringing a player from the back court so you would have four blockers at the net—internationally you only use the 3 front court players. Gene’s teams always played international rules. A great disadvantage. This all changed in 1968 for the Olympic Games in Mexico City.
All his skills as an indoor player—MVP at the Nationals—-multiple time winner at the USVBA Nationals—-1st team All World—multiple time All-American , and what I believe to be his greatest accomplishment (which he gets no credit for) – which is bringing the International style of play to the U.S.
While doing all the above he coached men and women indoor teams for years.
I’m sure there is disagreement with this, but my pick for the best player of all time is GENE SELZNICK.
I hope his sons Dane, Bob, and Jack get a chance to read this.
It was an honor to have played with Gene for so long.