VCU mourns passing of its first men’s basketball coach, Benny Dees
Dees helped lay the foundation of program as it transitioned from Richmond Professional Institute (RPI) to VCU. He spent one season with the program as RPI in 1967-68, then led the Rams to two winning seasons and a 25-21 mark as VCU from 1968-70.
Despite limited resources and a cramped Franklin Street Gym in those days, Dees managed to lure a powerhouse 1970 recruiting class that included VCU’s first two NBA players, Jesse Dark and Bernard Harris, as well as others. Although Dees resigned prior to the 1970-71 season due to health issues, that group of players went on to score the program’s first signature victory, a 63-56 overtime win over Minnesota on Dec. 28, 1970 at Franklin Street Gym.
“Coach Dees set us on a course none of us could imagine, including him. He recruited such talented student-athletes with little-to-no resources and got the best out of them. I spent time with him at one of our home games a few years ago and admired his kindness and humility. He was so proud of what VCU has become and always rooted for the Rams,” said VCU Vice President and Director of Athletics Ed McLaughlin.
Dees later returned to coaching as an assistant at Western Kentucky, Georgia Tech and Alabama, but he is perhaps best known for his two-year stint at New Orleans, where he led the Privateers to a 26-4 mark in 1986-87 and the program’s only Division I NCAA Tournament victory.
He later helmed his alma mater, Wyoming, to a 104-77 mark from 1987-1993 before closing out his coaching career with a two-year stint as head coach at Western Carolina. He retired in 1995.