Legendary Grace men’s basketball coach Jim Kessler will add another milestone to his impressive career — NAIA Hall of Fame.
Kessler will be inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame’s Class of 2015, announced on Tuesday by the national office.
The NAIA Hall of Fame was established in 1952 and recognizes an individual’s service to intercollegiate athletics, the NAIA and their sport. Induction into the NAIA Hall of Fame, and the ensuing title of Hall of Famer, is the highest individual honor bestowed by the Association.
“I am honored to be recognized by the NAIA and my peers. This is not something I set out to do when I began coaching, but I’m thankful the Lord blessed my work at Grace,” Kessler said. “I’m thankful to Grace College for the opportunity to make a career coaching basketball. I have been blessed with supportive presidents, administrations and athletic directors who have stood by me through the ups and downs of a coaching career. No one achieves anything of note without the contributions of others, and I have countless people to thank for this award.”
Kessler was the 45th coach in the history of men’s college basketball to win 700 games, eclipsing the milestone in the first game of the 2014-15 season. He is set to begin his 39th season in charge of the Lancers and has racked up a career record of 722-539.
Under Kessler’s leadership, the Lancers have reached nine NAIA National Championships and seven NCCAA National Championships. He has won 13 games at the NAIA tournament, including the 1992 NAIA Div. II national championship season.
Additionally, Kessler has 17 seasons with 20 or more wins and three seasons with 30 or more wins. He has won five Coach of the Year awards, 10 Crossroads League titles and has been inducted into the NCCAA Hall of Fame and the Lancer Hall of Fame. He was named the NAIA Coach of the Year once (1992) and the NCCAA Coach of the Year twice (1983, 1992).
“I have known Jim for nearly 45 years. His life has been one long continuity of integrity, humility, outstanding accomplishments and service,” said Grace president Dr. Bill Katip. “His coaching numbers speak for themselves, but it is the enormous personal impact Coach Kessler has made on our campus that endears him to us. He is a man of integrity and a role model to countless young men. I am honored to work with him at Grace College, and he is worthy of this recognition in every way.”
Kessler annually organizes tournaments designed to give back to the local community, impacting the surrounding area and local organizations such as Habitat for Humanity and the Kosciusko County Cancer Care Fund. For his contributions to the lives of the youth in the Warsaw area, he received the Pete Thorne Memorial Award in 2005. He also was given the NABC Guardians of the Game National Award for Service in 2006.
“Jim continues to be a standard of Christian excellence in the arena of athletics. His leadership and servant-like attitude has been a foundation within our athletic department, and he daily impacts our campus and community,” said Grace athletic director Chad Briscoe. “He is a revered coach of character who is respected by his peers in the collegiate ranks. Jim’s entire coaching career in the NAIA and his body of work is fully deserving of this award.”
Kessler is only the second individual from Grace to be inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame. Chet Kammerer, former men’s basketball coach at Grace and Westmont (Calif.), received the honor in 2000.