College basketball victories leader Gene Bess of Missouri's Three Rivers retires at 85

Three Rivers Community College basketball coach Gene Bess, third from left, sits on the bench with assistant coaches Dominic Okon, left, and Bess' son Gene and players on the right during a basketball game against Southwestern Illinois College in Belleville, Ill., Feb. 8, 2006. Bess, 70, is approaching a coaching milestone of 1,000 career wins. (AP Photo/James A. Finley)

POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. (AP) — College basketball victory leader Gene Bess of Three Rivers College has retired.

The 85-year-old coach announced the decision Saturday. Son Brian, a longtime assistant, took over the top job at the junior college.

"I've been realizing the time was near for me to go," Bess said in a statement. "The bottom line is, I want to be here to make the players better."

He fought health problems the last few seasons.

"I felt like I was just as effective, but I didn't have the energy level to do what I need to do to excel as a coach," Bess said. "The time has come."

Bess was 1,300-416 in 50 seasons at Three Rivers — 143 more victories than NCAA Division I leader Mike Krzyzewski of Duke. Bess led the Raiders to national titles in 1979 and 1992.

Latrell Sprewell starred at Three Rivers under Bess before going on to Alabama and the NBA.