In honor of Coach Bob McDonald, a UMD basketball alumnus and 1995 UMD Athletic Hall of Famer, Governor Mark Dayton proclaimed February 11th as “Bob McDonald Day” in the State of Minnesota. On December 26, 2013, Coach McDonald earned his career 1,000th victory, becoming the only high school coach in the state of Minnesota to reach this career milestone.
The electric atmosphere in the Hibbing Lincoln Middle School gym resembled that of a state tournament game, which made one thing abundantly clear: Fans wanted to witness history in the making on that cold December night on the Iron Range. When it was over, an emotional McDonald was in a league all his own. He became the first coach in Minnesota to reach quadruple digits for victories and just the 13th boys coach nationwide to do so.
McDonald’s record is a mind-boggling 1,000-421 in 59 seasons as a head coach (53 of which are with the Chisholm High School Bluestreaks). He got his start in McGregor, Minn., and then landed at Barnum before commencing his Chisholm tenure in 1961.
According to Gov. Dayton’s official press release proclaiming it “Bob McDonald Day” in Minnesota, “Bob McDonald made a commitment to invest in children and young adults through the Chisholm High School basketball and Chisholm youth Saturday morning basketball programs. In these programs, Bob teaches more than the fundamentals of basketball, he instills the values of hard work, practice, and teamwork. He wants his players to grow up to be fine young men and good contributors to society, and is well known for his expectations: he expects his players to be well-groomed, well-behaved, and respectful, and they are.”
“It was the [most fun] game of basketball I’ve ever played,” said Chisholm senior Mitch Rusten. “The way the fans showed up and showed support, it’s one of the greatest moments of my life. I’m just glad I was a part of it.”
Moments after the game ended, McDonald became the focal point of a tribute in front of the scorer’s table. Coach Bob McDonald’s son, Joel McDonald (and the Hibbing coach) presented his father with the game ball.
“It was definitely emotional,” Joel said. “Seeing him shed a few tears after the game brought a few out for me. When you’re committed to something and you kind of live it, that’s the emotion you should have.”
Bob McDonald, who is retiring after this season, was just glad to get the monumental milestone out of the way and get back to playing the game.
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“When I started off in McGregor, we wouldn’t have to count my wins,” McDonald said. “ I would win three games a season, every one of those hard-fought.”
Under McDonald’s direction, the Chisholm Bluestreaks have won three state titles in 1973, 1975, and 1991. At 80 years of age, and after myriad surgeries, McDonald doesn’t move as well as he once did. But the wits, the sense of humor, and the basketball IQ remain as sharp as ever.
In explaining how anybody could coach for six decades and win 1,000 games — he’s averaged about 17 victories per season — McDonald cited overwhelming family support. His wife, Carol, he said, “is a big backer of mine.”
And he alluded to community support he’s received throughout his reign. Admittedly, it wasn’t always that way, especially in the early going when victories weren’t quite as frequent. But that quickly changed, allowing McDonald to craft one of the great basketball narratives the state has ever seen.
“The community of Chisholm took me in when I was destitute,” he said. “I figured I owed Chisholm something, and “something” happened to be my tenure in basketball.”
Coach Bob McDonald was also honored prior to the UMD men’s basketball game on February 1, where the Bulldogs’ head coach Matt Bowen and graduate assistant Bryce Tesdahl presented him with a plaque commemorating the event. Tesdahl is also McDonald’s grandson, and he will continue the family’s coaching tradition.
UMD Athletic Hall of Fame
Bob McDonald held down the No. 1 spot on the club scoring charts in each of his two season with the Bulldogs (he had spent the previous two years at the University of Michigan and Hibbing Junior College before transferring to UMD). He averaged 13.6 points per game in his 49 career Bulldog outings, and he graduated from UMD in 1955 with a Bachelor of Science degree in social studies, history, and physical education. He spent the years since racking up more victories than any head coach in the history of Minnesota high school basketball and is a member of the Minnesota State High School Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame. Along with basketball, McDonald also headed the boy’s track and field program.