Three Rivers coach is first to 1,000 college wins

Updated: February 23, 2006, 1:32 AM ET
Associated Press

ST. LOUIS -- Gene Bess became the first college basketball coach to win 1,000 games when Three Rivers Community College beat Forest Park 77-60 Wednesday night.

Coach Bess is hard to beat. He's a good man and he's worked hard to get this far.
Frank Tinsley, 81, who says he never misses a game

The 70-year-old Bess' 1,000-258 record is unmatched at any collegiate level. Former North Carolina coach Dean Smith's 879 career wins are the most in NCAA Division I.

"This has never happened to anyone before, so I get satisfaction knowing that and so do a lot of other people," Bess said. "This victory sure has been building up. I'll need some time to settle down from the excitement."

Harry Statham at McKendree College in Lebanon, Ill., near St. Louis, is the winningest coach at any four-year college or university, compiling 912 wins in 40 years of coaching.

Bess, who coached NBA star Latrell Sprewell in the early 1990s, has built a junior college dynasty in southeast Missouri with 17 regional titles, 13 trips to the national tournament, and national championships in 1979 and 1992.

Gene Bess
AP/James A. FinleyGene Bess (with his son Brian behind him) has compiled a 1,000-258 record that is unmatched at any collegiate level.
He has never had a losing season in 36 years of coaching at the Poplar Bluff school.

Three Rivers will celebrate the achievement Saturday at its final regular-season game, when the court is named in Bess' honor.

Jermaine Dailey and Keith Burton led Three Rivers with 16 points each. The Raiders (21-7, 4-4) kept at least a 10-point lead throughout the second half and never trailed in the game.

The community of Poplar Bluff turned out to see the milestone win. Two chartered buses filled with fans made the nearly three-hour trip to St. Louis, including 81-year-old Frank Tinsley, who said he never misses a game.

"You know why I'm here," the retired railroad worker said. "Coach Bess is hard to beat. He's a good man and he's worked hard to get this far."

Commemorative 1,000th win T-shirts already were being passed out in the final seconds of the game, with Three Rivers leading by 20. The shirt chronicled Bess' wins, starting with his first in November 1970.

Burton said getting Bess his 1,000th victory was on his mind during the game, especially at halftime when the Raiders led only 28-24.

"We knew they wouldn't just lay down and make Coach's 1,000th win easy," Burton said.

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press