SPRING ARBOR, MI – Junior David Richmond hit a three-pointer with less than a minute to play as Grace College, Winona Lake, IN, pulled off a 70-67 men’s basketball victory over Spring Arbor College Tuesday. With the win, head coach Jim Kessler picked up the 500th of his career, all at Grace in 28 years.
“When I got started, I thought that I’d give it five years and then try something else like selling cars,” Kessler said. “My goal every game is to be 1-0 and I guess we’ve done that 500 times. I’ve been very fortunate.”
Kessler was named NAIA National Coach of the Year after leading the program to its only NAIA National Championship during the 1991-92 season and has twice been named NCCAA National Coach of the Year. As well, his teams have won the Mid-Central Conference Championship eight times. Despite all the accolades and accomplishments, Kessler learned that it isn’t during those times that you become a great coach.
“I learned long ago that you have to weather the difficult years to have longevity,” Kessler said. “The administration at Grace has always been very supportive.”
In getting win number 500, it was Richmond, who started his collegiate career for Kessler six years ago, who broke a 67-67 tie on a three-pointer with 47 seconds to play as the Lancers escaped a tough Mid-Central Conference road game to even their conference record at 2-2.
“The shot clock was running down,” Kessler said about the game winner. “And he hit a huge shot. We hit some big shots tonight as a team.”
Looking back at 500 wins, Kessler had one important group to mention.
“I want to thank my wife and family,” Kessler said. “This job can be brutal and demanding, and it takes a special woman to be a coach’s wife. My daughters have been involved as well and they have always been supportive.”
Grace improves to 12-4 on the season, a strong improvement over a 10-20 season a year ago. The Lancers will host No. 15 Taylor Saturday at 3 p.m. in a key conference game for both teams. Each is 2-2 in the MCC and will be looking to move into the upper half of the conference standings.