Three Rivers College will unveil its new statue of legendary coach Gene Bess at 4 p.m. February 4 as part of this year’s annual Alumni Reunion. There will also be a “Brick Walk” around the statue. The Three Rivers Endowment Trust is offering both 4-by-8-inch and 8-by-8-inch customizable engraved bricks that will help support scholarships for Three Rivers College athletes. Learn more about purchasing a brick.
ESPN coverage of the unveiling will appear during that night’s game on ESPN+ as Three Rivers hosts Moberly Area in the ESPN+ Game of the Week. The Lady Raiders will tip off at 5 p.m., with the men to follow at 7 p.m.
Coach Bess, a Missouri Sports Hall of Fame Legend, built the Raiders Basketball dynasty while teaching two classes a semester, and serving as the Three Rivers Athletic Director throughout his career.
In his 50 years at Three Rivers College, Coach Bess made 17 appearances in the NJCAA National Tournament, nine final four appearances, and won two national championships. At least 42 former players for Bess went on to coach all over the country. Coach Bess retired in 2020 as the winningest coach in all of college basketball with 1,300 wins and a career record of 1,300-416.
The Booster Club spearheaded an effort to build a lasting monument in celebration of his illustrious career. This statue honors Coach Bess’ 50 years of outstanding community service and his place in Raider history.
He became college basketball’s all-time wins leader in 2001 when he surpassed North Carolina’s Dean Smith and Richard Baldwin of Broome Community College. He was the first college basketball coach to reach 1,000 wins in 2006, the first with 1,100 wins four seasons later, and 1,200 in 2015. His 1,300th win came in what ended up being his final home game on a court named in his honor. Coach Bess finished with a career record of 1,300-416, won national championships in 1979 and 1992, coached in four national title games, appeared in 17 national tournaments, won 23 region championships, and is a member of four halls of fame. “He brought notoriety, he brought fame, he brought championships, but that’s not the important thing that he brought to our school,” Three Rivers President Dr. Wesley Payne said. “He brought honor. He brought a dedication that was an example to everyone that works there or walked through the doors as a student. He brought courage, he brought direction, he brought an example that was worthy to follow.”