Steve Hesser will be in his 15th season as the head coach of the Drury Panthers men’s basketball program in 2018-19, and the number of career milestones is continuing to grow for the veteran mentor.
Last year, he became the second Drury coach in program history to surpass the 300 career-win total when the Panthers defeated Wisconsin-Parkside 74-57 on Feb. 17.
Hesser also became the second-longest tenured head coach in program history in 2018 and will enter the upcoming season trailing only the legendary A.L. Weiser, who guided the program for 31 years (1927-58). Hesser, however, needs just 15 more victories to overtake Weiser to become Drury's all-time leader in coaching wins. Weiser went 316-256 guiding the Panthers men's basketball program while Hesser enters the 2018-19 season at 302-114.
Hesser's career winning percentage of .726 is the best mark in Drury's 109-year program history for any head coach that has served more than one season (Jerry Kirksey posted a .943 mark going 33-2 in his lone season as head coach in 1978-79).
Hesser has gone 178-70 (.717) in conference play, has led the program to the NCAA-II National Championship in 2013, eight NCAA-II national tournament appearances, two NCAA-II regional championships, three Great Lakes Valley Conference titles, and nine first places finishes during the conference regular season. His 2004-05 team went 11-1 in conference play in Drury’s final season in the Heartland Conference.
While his win total and winning percentage are also among the top 10 active coaches in NCAA-II, Hesser's crowning achievement came in 2013 when he led the Panthers to the NCAA-II national championship with a 74-73 win over Metro State in the title game in Atlanta, Georgia. He was the NABC Division II National Coach of the Year that season as the Panthers finished the year 31-4, 16-2 in the GLVC and were conference champions.
Despite losing key players to graduation, including the bulk of the team’s scoring load from their national title team, Hesser guided the Panthers to another GLVC division title and their second straight trip to the Elite Eight as Drury went 28-4 in 2013-14.
Under Hesser, the Panthers have been particularly tough at home. Drury is 105-15 all-time at the O’Reilly Family Event Center since the arena opened for the 2010-11 season and the Panthers won a program-record 32-straight home game from 2013-15. Drury was 78-13 through six years under Hesser at Weiser Gym putting his career record at 184-28 (.867) in home games.
Hesser became the 19th head coach in Drury men’s basketball history after successful stints as a high school coach in Oklahoma and Missouri. Before his arrival on Drury’s campus, coach Hesser spent six years as head coach at Glendale High School and compiled a 97-39 mark with the Falcons. At Glendale, he won an Ozark Conference title in 2001 and got his team to the Class 5 sectional in 2003.
In Oklahoma, Steve Hesser put together a record of 262-142 with stops in Pauls Valley (1980-84), Bartlesville (1985-92) and Stillwater (1993-99). He coached future major league baseball player and St. Louis Cardinal Matt Holliday at Stillwater HS and went 87-62 there winning four conference titles and making two state tournament appearances. Hesser’s Bartlesville teams won Oklahoma Class 6A state championships in 1989, 1991 and 1992 and were the state runner-up in 1988. He compiled a 147-47 mark in seven seasons coaching Bruins before serving one year as an assistant coach at Western Illinois University. His first head coaching job came at Pauls Valley where be coached for four seasons before joining Billy Tubbs at Oklahoma University as a graduate assistant coach.
Hesser was inducted into the Missouri Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2014, the Bartlesville Area Sports of Hall of Fame in 2011 and the Oklahoma Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 2007.
As a student-athlete, Hesser was a two-sport standout at Stillwater High School, excelling in both basketball and football. He started his college playing career in both sports at New Mexico Military Academy before moving on to finish his college education, and playing days, at the University of Central Oklahoma.
His playing career ultimately cut short by a leg injury, Hesser finished his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma State, then earned a Master’s degree in secondary education from Oklahoma University in 1985.
Hesser and his wife, Patti, have one son, Tyler, a daughter-in-law Stephanie, and two grandchildren.