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Three Rivers College has hired alumnus Robert Kirby as the new head coach of the Three Rivers Raiders. 

“Three Rivers is home for me. This is where I started my basketball career outside of high school,” Kirby said. “Come join us. You’re going to be very, very happy about what we’re doing. It’s going to be an exciting brand of basketball, it’s going to be fun, it’s going to be enthusiastic, and you’re going to love us.” 

Kirby played on the 1979 Three Rivers National Championship team, led them to a fifth-place finish as a sophomore, and was inducted into the Three Rivers Hall of Fame in 2020. He finished his college career at Pan American (now known as the University of Texas-Rio Grande Valley). He helped them get to the 1981 NIT and graduated in 1983 before serving one year as a student assistant coach. 

“I think Three Rivers is the best job in the country,” said former Three Rivers coach and 2023 Naismith Hall of Fame Inductee Gene Bess, the winningest coach in college basketball history with 1,300 wins over 50 seasons with the Raiders. “It’s one of those situations where we’ve got a beautiful building and great people. I think it’s a gold mine just waiting to expand, and I think people will figure that out with Robert. He’s very optimistic and just a great person.” 

Kirby is the fourth head coach in Three Rivers history. He follows Bob Cradic (1967-70), Gene Bess (1970-2020), and Brian Bess (2020-24). Brian Bess also was an assistant coach under Gene Bess for 27 years. 

“It’s an exciting time for Raider Nation to welcome in such an outstanding coach and an outstanding person who played for my dad and represents everything that he wanted in a leader,” Brian Bess said. “I want to thank the fans, the booster club, the administration, and all those who have helped me have a career of 31 years at one College. Getting to help my dad, spending time with him, and taking over the program has been a blessing and a joy for me and my family.” 

 A Memphis native, Kirby has helped lead teams to 19 postseason appearances, including 11 NCAA Tournaments and eight NITs, and has coached 18 professional players, including Sikeston native Otto Porter Jr. 

Kirby joins Three Rivers after one year as an assistant coach with Kennesaw State, two years at Ole Miss (2022-23), and five years on Patrick Ewing’s staff at Georgetown (2017-22). 

“Three Rivers is proud and excited to bring Robert Kirby home,” said Three Rivers President Dr. Wesley Payne. “His leadership, character, and enthusiasm will tremendously benefit our student-athletes. Three Rivers has been blessed with some of the greatest coaches in college sports, and I do not doubt that Robert Kirby will add to that rich history.” 

Kirby has also coached at LSU (2012-13, 2016-17), Memphis (2013-15), Mississippi State (1989-93, 1998-2010), Houston (1993-98), Southeastern Louisiana (1988-89), and UALR (1985-88). 

Some of his coaching highlights include three NCAA Tournament appearances at Georgetown, 10 postseason appearances in 12 years at Mississippi State, five All-Americans, and several nationally-ranked recruiting classes. In his first time with Georgetown (2010-12), Kirby also pulled in consecutive top-15 recruiting classes. recognized him as one of the nation’s top recruiters, and HoopScoop as one of the country’s top assistant coaches. Kirby has also received the NABC (National Association of Basketball Coaches) Distinguished Years of Service Award. 

“The program is going to be built on trust and love. I’m going to trust each and every one of those players to come in and do the right thing. I’m going to trust my staff to continue to recruit the right people,” Kirby said. “Three Rivers isn’t for everyone. It isn’t. But the people who have stayed and done the work, they’ve been very successful in life.” 

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