Bob 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 has a long history of success at Scranton that begin in 1951 as a freshman and concluded with his retirement from coaching in 2001. That's half a century as an integral part in the University's athletics department, an impressive accomplishment considering he served the University in many other ways in addition to basketball.
Bessoir will add another honor to his résumé when he receives the University's Peter A. Carlesimo Award at the Carlesimo Golf Tournament and Award Dinner on June 20 at Saucon Valley Country Club in Bethlehem, Pa. Sordoni Construction Services is the title sponsor for the event, from which proceeds will benefit student-athletes at the University.
Since 2011, the Peter A. Carlesimo Award, named for the late University of Scranton head coach and director of athletics, has been presented to someone who has made special contributions to athletics and Catholic education.
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.
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, who were coached by Carlesimo. In four years, Bessoir etched his name in the University's record book, 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 hated 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 has 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 information on the Carlesimo Golf Tournament and Award Dinner, visit www.scranton.edu/carlesimoaward.
Previous recipients of the Carlesimo Award are:
- 2015 -- Dave Gavitt
- 2014 -- Stephen Klingman
- 2013 -- Bill Raftery
- 2012 -- Peter Carlesimo