As the men’s basketball team made its way back to the NCAA Tournament this season, many in Cougar Nation fondly recalled the team’s last trip to the Big Dance in 1999 under the guiding hand of legendary former head coach John Kresse.
And while Kresse has been quick to redirect any attention to the accomplishments of the current team and its head coach, Earl Grant, the world of collegiate basketball is reminding us just how incredible of a career Kresse has had.
During this year’s NCAA Tournament, the National Association of Basketball Coaches announced that Kresse will be inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. The induction will take place in Kansas City, Mo., in November 2018.
“The induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame is a wonderful honor that I share with my family, the College and my terrific assistants, players and fans who were instrumental in making this happen,” says Kresse, now a special assistant to the College’s Athletics Director Matt Roberts. “In my 38 years of coaching, my favorite and most memorable were my 23 years as head coach of the Cougars and seeing our program transition successfully from NAIA to NCAA Division I.”
As head coach at the College from 1979 to 2002, Kresse compiled an impressive 560-143 overall record. His 79.7 winning percentage ranks fifth-highest all-time among NCAA Division I coaches behind Claire Bee, Adolph Rupp, Mark Few and John Wooden.
A native New Yorker and former assistant coach of the New York Nets and St. John’s University, Kresse built the College into an NAIA power in the 1980s, culminating in a national championship in 1983. He was named NAIA District Coach of the Year five times.
Following the Cougars’ transition to NCAA Division I in 1989, Kresse’s teams reached four NCAA Tournaments and two National Invitation Tournaments between 1994 and 1999. He won four conference Coach of the Year awards in Division I.
Under Kresse, the College became known as “Giant Killers,” with Top 25 upsets over Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Maryland and Stanford. The team reached its highest-ever national ranking of No. 16 in 1997 and 1999.
The court at the College’s TD Arena is named in Kresse’s honor. He is also a member of the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame (1999), NAIA Hall of Fame (2005), South Carolina Athletics Hall of Fame (2001) and College of Charleston Athletics Hall of Fame (2015).
Featured image: John Kresse in TD Arena. (Photo by Kip Bulwinkle ’04)