Legendary University Men’s Basketball Head Coach Passes Away

    Bob Bessoir, who spent 29 seasons as the head coach for The University of Scranton men's basketball program (1972-2001) passed away at age 88 on Dec. 30.
    January 1, 2021

    This article originally appeared on Dec. 30 on the Athletics website. Please visit this page for more photos.

    Bob Bessoir, a fixture throughout The University of Scranton's Department of Athletics for almost 50 years who went on to put the Royals men's basketball program on the national map in his 29-year tenure as head coach, passed away on Dec. 30 at his home. He was 88.

    "I am saddened by the news of the passing of Bob Bessoir," said Dave Martin, Director of Athletics. "Coach Bess was an icon, a legend, a mentor, and most importantly, a great friend to so many. My thoughts and prayers go out to his wife Donna, his children, his grandchildren, and his entire family."

    "His name is synonymous with The University of Scranton and Division III college basketball," Martin continued. "I was friends with Bob long before I came to The University of Scranton. He was instrumental in helping me get my first head coaching job in 1990. I will miss my lunch dates, which turned to phone conversations with him during the pandemic."

    Bessoir made a name for himself in many ways during his 29-year career as head men's basketball coach at The University of Scranton.

    Of course, there were the two national championships and the numerous other outstanding teams, but there was also his outgoing personality that included confident predictions and eye-catching fashion on the sidelines.

    A standout player at the University prior to his coaching days, Bessoir had a long history of success at Scranton that began in 1951 as a freshman and concluded with his retirement from coaching in 2001.

    In his career, Bessoir led the Royals to 554 victories in his 29 seasons as head coach, including national titles in 1976 and 1983, the second with his son, Billy, leading the way. All-in-all, Bessoir led the Royals to 18 NCAA tournament appearances and was 31-18 in those games. He also led Scranton to 14 Middle Atlantic Conference titles and to 13 seasons of at least 20 wins.

    Twice, Bessoir was named national coach of the year – 1983 and 1992 – and he was a four-time Middle Atlantic Conference Coach of the Year. He's a 1976 inductee into the University's Wall of Fame, and he's a member of six other halls of fame, including the Pennsylvania State Sports Hall of Fame. In 2016, Bessoir was awarded the University's Peter A. Carlesimo Award for contributions to athletics and Catholic education.

    His storybook career at the University, however, started long before he took over the reins of the men's basketball program in 1972.

    A skinny 6-6 forward out of Jersey City, N.J., Bessoir played four seasons of basketball for the Royals (1951-55), finishing his career with 1,078 points and 838 rebounds.

    Bessoir's final college game turned out to be a microcosm of his career. He went out with a bang, pulling down a school-record 43 rebounds in a 78-76 victory over rival King's College on March 5, 1955, a rebounding effort no other Royal has even come close to matching since.

    After a stint in the military upon graduation, Bessoir returned to his alma mater in 1958. During a career that touched seven decades, he served in a variety of roles such as acting director of athletics, head men's tennis coach, head baseball coach, professor of physical education, and director of the National Youth Sports Program.

    For all the jobs that Bessoir held at the University, however, it was his coaching prowess that Royal fans will never forget. More than anything else, Bessoir established a winning and proud tradition at Scranton that carries on today, making it one of the most successful in NCAA Division III history.

    His unique and charismatic personality only made it that much better.

    For more, visit

    Back to Top