With hoops season around the corner, locals remember college basketball pioneer Phil Kahler

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - For many Alaskan college basketball fans, the name Phil Kahler might not ring a bell, but for others, the name is a familiar one.

Kahler never coached college basketball in the 49th State, but he did grow up in Anchorage‘s Government Hill, graduating from Anchorage High School 1953 and going on to Dickinson State before returning to Alaska to serve in the military.

This March, he passed away at the age of 84, leaving behind a wife, daughter, and historic career as a college hoops coach.

After leaving the military and Alaska, Kahler made a name for himself as a women's coach in Rochester, New York, at St. John Fisher College. He would go on to turn the Fisher’s women’s basketball program into a NCAA Div. III powerhouse, with an overall record of 797-175 over 36 years. With that, Fisher became the all-time winningest program at the NCAA Div. III level.

Kahler himself also reached the 600 and 700 win marks faster than any other coach in NCAA basketball history, and no college coach holds a better winning percentage over a longer period of time at any of the NCAA division levels.

Despite never winning a national championship, Kahler went to the Div. III championship games in 1988 and 1990, leading the Cardinals through to postseason tournaments 31 out of a possible 34 times. And if his success on the basketball court wasn’t enough, he coached the university's volleyball team, which he did well enough to take the Cardinals to two National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics National Championships.

Kahler is a member of the Basketball Coaches of New York Hall of Fame, and was a finalist for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.