College basketball victories leader Gene Bess retires at 85

** FILE ** Three Rivers Community College basketball coach Gene Bess yells in a play during a game against Forest Park Community College in a Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2006 photo, in St. Louis. Now that Gene Bess has 1,000 wins, a first in college coaching history, the junior college coach goes for 1,001 Saturday on a court bearing his freshly painted name. (AP Photo/Tom Gannam, file)

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.