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After 50 years and 1,300 wins, Three Rivers College Raiders head basketball coach Gene Bess has announced his retirement.

Gene Bess began his career at Three Rivers in 1969 as assistant basketball coach and was named head coach in 1970. The 2019-2020 season was his last leading the Raiders. His career record is 1,300-416, making him the all-time most winning basketball coach in the nation.

“Gene has been an absolute icon of athletics here at Three Rivers and an integral part of daily life on campus,” said Dr. Wesley Payne, President of Three Rivers College. “He is such a good person and has been such a good friend to me that I hate to see him leave.”

Bess has won two national junior college championships, in 1979 and 1992. He has led the Raiders to 17 NJCAA tournament appearances and reached the final four nine times. He has been recognized as NJCAA Coach of the Year twice, Regional Coach of the Year 23 times, and MCCAC Conference Coach of the Year 19 times. In 2016, he received the highest award the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame gives when he achieved legend status. He also is a member of the Poplar Bluff Sports Hall of Fame and the NJCAA Hall of Fame. Earlier this year, Bess was among the first inductees in the Three Rivers College Athletic Hall of Fame.

“I’ve been realizing the time was near for me to go,” said Bess. “I want to spend more time with my family and my grandchildren. I’m kind of excited about not having to go to work and being able to do what I want to do,” Bess continued.

Brian Bess, Gene’s son and assistant coach for the past 27 years, will be the new head coach for the Raiders and the new athletic director for the College. Former Three Rivers All-American Bryan Sherrer will be staying on as assistant coach.

“I’m replacing a legend, so expectations are really high,” said Brian Bess. “I have big shoes to fill.”

Three Rivers College is committed to contributing to the quality of life in Southeast Missouri with quality, affordable higher education opportunities and community services that support and encourage the economic, civic, and cultural vitality of the region. For more information about college and workforce programs and upcoming events, visit

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