In Alaska, basketball could be considered the state’s unofficial sport. It’s importance to communities, especially rural ones, as an activity that can be played year-round and brings people together has been the subject of news articles and films. And you can’t talk basketball in Alaska without talking about legendary ball player Milo Griffin.
Milo still holds several University of Alaska Fairbanks basketball records, including most points in a game (43), most career field goals (622), and free throws made (438). For 36 years he was the school’s all-time leading scorer with 1,682 points. Milo’s No. 44 jersey was the first player jersey to be retired by the university, where it still hangs in the gym. He’s even been nominated to the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame and in 2023 was inducted into the Alaska School Activities Association High School Hall of Fame as a contributor.
But Milo would never tell you any of these amazing stats himself. He’s more likely to cheerfully tell you about his career as a teacher and coach for generations of Alaska kids over the past 30 years.
“I think the community loves sports, and this is a sports environment,” Milo said. “People love to go out to support and participate.”
Milo’s Alaska story started on accident. Originally from Kentucky, he joined the military and was meant to get on a plane to Korea. He ended up on one that brought him to Alaska, and he “got stuck here.” That was 60 years ago. Being involved in sports his entire life, he found community in Alaska through playing basketball and has been a fixture in the sports scene ever since.
“I like Alaska because you get a new start,” Milo said. “It’s a place where you can have nothing and leave here with something in your pocket. Whatever things you want to have in your life, you can get them in Alaska.”
Milo knows that first-hand. When his basketball scholarship to UAF was cut, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner’s then-owner, C.W. Snedden, stepped in to pay for Milo’s schooling.
“I didn’t even know this guy,” Milo said. “But he gave me four years of school.”
Since then, Milo has dedicated his life to teaching and coaching students not just as players, but as people too. He committed to the community that shaped him.
Whether on the court or sideline or in life, Milo said it’s important for people to take advantage of the opportunities in front of them and be an example of success for others.