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Gene Bess

Far away from the fabled centers of the basketball universe, in a small town tucked away near the Missouri bootheel, a junior college coach made history. Gene Bess coached at Three Rivers College in Poplar Bluff for parts of seven decades, establishing a record of longevity second to none. Along the way, he picked up exactly 1,300 wins, the most in college basketball at any level at the time of his retirement in 2020. He was the first college basketball coach to reach 1,000 wins, and the milestones continued to pile up over the next 14 seasons. Under the direction of Bess, Three Rivers averaged 26 wins per season, appeared in the NJCCA tournament 17 times, and made four trips to the national championship game. The two biggest wins in program history came in 1979 and 1992 when Bess led Three Rivers to the junior college national championship. Bess was twice named National Coach of the Year, Regional Coach of the Year 23 times, and Missouri Community College Athletic Conference Coach of the Year 19 times.




March 03, 1935 Oak Ridge, TN


Three Rivers College

Career Stats

1,300 Wins
2x NJCCA National Championships
2x NJCAA National Coach of the Year