By: Keith Groller
Bob Kohler admits that after 45 years in coaching, some people think he should be thinking about the rockin’ chair.
But the 70-year-old Kohler, well-known in local football circles, doesn’t want to slow down.
He remains as passionate about the game as he was in the early 1960s playing for coaching legend Perry Scott at Allen High School.
Kohler, who began his coaching career with the Canaries and then spent time at Kutztown University, Moravian College and more than 25 years at Muhlenberg, was hired as the head coach of the Lehigh Valley Steelhawks, the local professional indoor football franchise entering its eighth season in the spring of 2018.
“This opportunity came as a surprise, but a joyous surprise,” Kohler said Tuesday at a press conference at PPL Center, the Steelhawks’ home. “If I could pick anywhere to choose to coach again at the next level, it would be with an organization like Steelhawks, who are built on integrity, character and high expectations.”
Kohler, who had been the team’s defensive coordinator for two years, replaces Chris Thompson, who had been the team’s head coach and assistant general manager for six seasons.
Thompson resigned a few weeks ago to become the offensive coordinator and director of football operations for the new Albany franchise in the Arena Football League. He was part of the selection committee for the new coach.
“Coach Kohler is the Lehigh Valley in my opinion,” said Steelhawks general manager Mike Clark. “He knows the area, he knows the people. He knows the team and the values of the ownership group and how we want to move forward with our team. It’s a seamless transition after what Coach Thompson built.”
The Steelhawks made the playoffs six consecutive seasons under Thompson.
Last year the team went 9-1 in its first season in the National Arena League, losing in the NAL semifinals.
Kohler, however, knows that the franchise is about much more than wins and losses.
It’s about offering an entertaining night for families and it’s also about having a positive impact in the community.
Wherever he has been, Kohler has been known as a teacher who instills values off the field as well as on it.
“What I’ve seen of him over the years is that he’s a teacher first,” Clark said. “He helps young guys develop into grown men and maximizes their potential, not only on the football field, but in life. He has stayed in touch with guys after their playing days are over because he genuinely cares about people.”
Kohler sees the Steelhawks as more than an indoor football team. He sees the professional team as a chance to boost kids in the community.
“I believe the value of this team is not just what it does on the field,” Kohler said. “It’s what this organization is willing to do in the community. We want to be out there. We want to show the quality of young men we have and inspire others. We want to be in the schools visiting with kids. We want to be in the hospitals. We want to be with businesses and help them promote.”
Kohler said the Steelhawks averaged about 3,500 fans per home date last season with many repeat customers.
“I challenge the people who came out last year to come out again this season and bring just one more person with them,” Kohler said. “If they do that, we’re going to come close to filling this place the way the Phantoms do. If they haven’t see an arena football game, they’re missing some real excitement.”
Kohler can’t fully dive into his new duties as the head coach of the Steelhawks just yet.
He is busy this week working with the defensive backs at Bethlehem Catholic, who are preparing for Friday night’s PIAA Class 4A semifinal against Imhotep Charter.
“Bob is a quality guy who has great experience,” Becahi coach Joe Henrich said. “He may have mellowed some with time, but he still brings the passion. With all of his experience he brings a lot of wisdom. Coaching is about building relationships and teaching kids. He has done it for a long time.”
WHAT ABOUT BOB?
* Played football at Allen High School and Kutztown University.
* Spent more than 30 years as a teacher and administrator in the Allentown School District.
* Coached at Allen High School and collegiately at Kutztown, Moravian and for more than 25 years at Muhlenberg.
* Coached for the minor league Lehigh Valley Storm for two seasons.
* Coached in professional arena football with the Lehigh Valley Outlawz, New Jersey Revolution, and Trenton Freedom, but has spent six of the last seven seasons with the Steelhawks.