This column is not a “local” column for only the Kenai Peninsula, because Dan Gensel was known statewide, especially for anyone who loved their high school sports. Our station KSRM and its five affiliates carried anywhere from 250-300 sporting contests a year in football, basketball, hockey, ABL and high school baseball, softball, even wrestling. We often did courtesy broadcasts with our play-by-play for other stations. We were picked up directly in Anchorage and the Mat Valley whenever their teams came here.

It was all Gensel’s doing since 1999, when he “retired,” after just 20 years of teaching and coaching basketball at Soldotna, and went into his true love, sports journalism. He made KSRM the absolute and unquestioned leader in broadcasting sports in Alaska. I was lucky to be recruited primarily as a hockey announcer, but also covered basketball, football and softball when the occasions required.

This winter he actually called eight straight basketball games in one day during the state tournament. It just might be a world record.

Dan was more than a sports guy, however. He filled in the morning radio show with station owner Matt Wilson five days a week. Like juggling chainsaws, he would get to the station at 5:15 a.m. (often after calling games late into the night), start doing his pre-recorded sports report, join in early-morning banter and follow the usual routine from 6-9 a.m.

His adlibbing with Wilson made our station THE station to listen to while getting ready for work, disdaining the Anchorage stations … which of course ignored our hometown news and problems.

Summers saw him take Peninsula Oiler baseball. We covered home games jointly for 14 years, while he did road games and I stayed at home and lived my life. He once did a 22-inning game in Anchorage. In 2016, he recruited a tremendous young man from Anchorage, Casey Rohl, into the profession. I think he did it just so he could have road games free with his grandkids.

He gave of himself right to the end, starting with his grandsons, whom he adored and babysat for during the day.

Gensel was a shark that cruised endlessly, knowing that if he rested, he would sink. I often asked him, “When do you sleep, for Pete’s sake?” He answered, “Sleep is overrated.”

Unknown to most, he used the iPad that posted the running statistics after each pitch, so the players could have distant major league scouts keep track of our games and its nuances … all the while he did the play-by-play!

Dan was a devout Lutheran and, with his equally busy wife Kathy, supported her philanthropic works. He even gave sermons at his parish when invited to do so. He and Kathy attended my Shroud of Turin lecture and knew the truth of Christ.

He gave of himself right to the end, starting with his grandsons, whom he adored and babysat for during the day. And he was coaching track and field for Soldotna. This winter he actually called eight straight basketball games in one day during the state tournament. It just might be a world record. I don’t know how he got to the restroom. He was the Alaska Broadcasters Association “Broadcaster of the Year” in 2021 and is a shoo-in to make the ABA Hall of Fame, with station founder and owner – the recently retired John Davis.

He already is in the Alaska Schools Athletic Association HOF in all three categories as a player, coach and broadcaster.

Dan was in robust and vigorous health at age 66 when he died instantly on May 14 at his home, while working on his back deck for summer repairs. Call it SADS: Sudden Adult Death Syndrome. There’s been a lot of that going around lately.

The loss to our station is incalculable, but Matt Wilson, 25 years Dan’s junior, is as talented, resourceful, smart and strong as was Gensel. The two were like brothers.

For those who love their families, their children’s sports and understand the problems we face in carting them around our enormous state for their competitions, please don’t forget Dan Gensel and his family.

We have lost a Giant.

The views expressed here are those of the author.

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Alaska lost a Giant with the passing of broadcaster/Coach Dan Gensel

Bob Bird
Bob Bird ran for U.S. Senate in 1990 and 2008. He is a past president of Alaska Right to Life, a 47-year Alaska resident and a retired public school teacher. He has a passion for studying and teaching Alaska and U.S. constitutional history. He lives on the Kenai Peninsula and is currently a daily radio talk-show host for The Talk of the Kenai, on KSRM 920 AM from 3-5 pm and heard online

1 Comment

  • Jayme Hatfield says:

    Dan Gensel lived a life giving and living to everyone and everything around him, as all of us should. imagine the hundreds of students he supported and influenced, and thousands of WeAlaskans whose lives were touched by Dan and Kathy Gensel. I am from the next older generation, having worked with Kathy’s mom Jane Stein, and her Rocket Scientist husband Dave. Jane was like the proverbial EverReady Bunny; I knew when I handed off the Presidency of Bridges to her it was in good hands. I hope everyone connects to the fact that Coach Dan and wife Kathy have been community leaders by example, as were their parents before them. As Dan Gensel lived, is HOW the next generations are taught: with committment to your faith, your community, and a creative constructive path.