Photo provided by Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
After being the sports editor of the Daily American Republic for a few months now, I’ve learned a few things.
One of those things being about the legendary Gene Bess. Bess will be inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame tonight in Springfield, Massachusetts.
He will go into the elusive club with some of the best the game has ever seen. Dwayne Wade, Dirk Nowitzki, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol, Becky Hammon, the great Gregg Popovich, Jim Valvano. The list is insane but the resume is even crazier. Of all the names going in and that are already in the hall of fame, none of them have 1,300 wins.
That honor belongs to one person. Bess.
I’ve gotten the chance to talk to Coach a couple of times and even met him once when they laid bricks around his statue to commemorate members of the 1979 National Championship team. Another was for an interview for a story that will be in the upcoming Progress magazine from the DAR.
There are a few things that come to mind when myself, an outsider, thinks of Bess and what he means to the community of Poplar Bluff and Three Rivers. His legacy is obviously unmatched. That many wins, a couple of NJCAA National Championships, a couple of NBA players along with countless other accolades.
The others, oddly, have nothing to do with sports. The three words people have said the most, when asked about Bess, are family, faith and life. I’ve heard Bess loves his family and his faith above all things.
But I’ve also heard he was a life coach. Someone that helps navigate a person through this crazy, winding, twisting road we call life. I’ve heard these stories from formers players, coaches and even people that aren’t involved in Raider Athletics or elsewhere that talk about Bess like he’s not of this Earth.
Former Raider standout and current SIU Carbondale women’s assistant Marissa Webb said she’s always been aware of Bess.
“Consistent, he’s just so steady,” she said. “He’s a powerhouse.”
She remembers when her dad was on staff witnessing a practice with Bess.
“A silent practice and everyone knew what he was doing,” she said.
Another Raider legend, Corey Gipson, is another area product that already knew of the impact Bess had before he ever stepped foot on the Three Rivers campus.
“When I when I was a kid, a lot of the things that my family taught me, my father and uncles and people like that, hey had experience that with him when they were in high school,” Gipson said. “So a lot of the same doctrine and philosophies, you know, they obviously adopted but he’s a true living life coach.”
Gipson is the head coach of the Austin Peay State University Governors in Clarksville, Tennessee, one of many Bess products that are now a part of his coaching tree. The list goes on and on and the words spoken by them all ring the same tune.
Gene Bess is a legend in every sense of the word. The induction ceremony will air at 7 p.m. Saturday on NBAtv.
Tyler Dixon is the sports editor at the Daily American Republic and can be reached at email@example.com.