Well folks, Minnesota and the world lost a legend last week with the passing of Bob McDonald, longtime basketball coach at McGregor, Barnum and Chisholm.
Bob won 1,012 games with the three schools, most notably with the Blue Streaks – where he spent 53 seasons and won three state titles while reaching the state tournament 11 times.
His total win-loss record was 1,012-428 and he had only six losing seasons in his 53 years at Chisholm.
The numbers are unreal, but Bob wasn’t a numbers guy. He was really into his players and teaching them to be the best people they could be. I had heard about Bob over the years but never actually met him until the mid 70s when we covered McGregor in the district and then section tournament. The first time I talked to him I was a little intimidated, but he put me at ease immediately by asking me how things were down in Aitkin and how good was McGregor in case they played them. It was always easy after that – he always remembered my name and that I was from Aitkin and he hoped the Mercs would take it easy on Chisholm later in the tournament. That was usually just him being nice, but there were a few games that the Mercs stayed with them and were a little responsible for a few of his gray hairs.
His discipline of his players was legendary as well, complete with crew cuts and shirts and ties while traveling or at home, it didn’t matter. One of the last times I chatted with him was at the tournament. As the two teams were warming up, the music was blasting and he didn’t like that at all. He frowned and reminded me that things were changing and he did not care for it.
He had so many great players over the years, but great teams interested him more and he always stressed that one guy couldn’t win anything; it took a team and he knew how to get the most out of every player, first off the bench or last off the bench. He forgot more than most people ever knew about basketball. He is that once-in-a-lifetime coach for me and I’ve known a lot of them.
I have an old photo that my wife took of me interviewing him and it’s a keepsake. He probably never knew what a treat it was to talk to him because he looked at everybody the same, but for me, he was always on that pedestal. He was the greatest coach I will ever know and an even greater person. They don’t come along very often.