Vermilion Community College men's basketball coach Paul McDonald will command the sidelines on his home court one last time this Saturday, February 16 when the Ironmen host Rainy River Community College at 3pm.
McDonald announced his retirement last winter, after 29 years serving as the men's basketball coach, instructor and athletic director at Vermilion. Part of one of the most iconic basketball families in Minnesota and the upper Midwest, McDonald's teams have amassed 14 of the last 17 MCAC Northern Division championships and 15 Ironmen have earned NJCAA All-American status while competing for VCC. Notably, McDonald has been with the Ironmen for all 29 of his years at the college level, a longtime leader, mentor and instructor at the Ely-based campus. Vermilion reached the NJCAA National Tournament in 1999, 2001, 2002 and 2006 and have enjoyed 18 seasons of 20 wins or more.
McDonald is a Chisholm (MN) High School graduate and was an integral part of the 1973 and 1975 Bluestreaks state championship teams. Upon graduation, McDonald accepted a scholarship to the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, competing in the Big Eight Conference, taking on the likes of Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Oklahoma State, among others. After lettering as a Cornhusker freshman, McDonald transferred to South Dakota State University where he earned both All-Conference and All-Region accolades in his career. McDonald still holds the individual record for consecutive free throws made by a men's basketball player at SDSU.
Many of McDonald's milestones have been chronicled during his career over the past three decades, including several benchmark wins along the way leading to stories from journalists such as the Star Tribune's Patrick Reusse in this 2010 article. Just as important, McDonald has influenced hundreds of young men seeking to advance both their athletic and academic careers, using Vermilion as a stepping stone to four-year college programs who have recruited dozens of former VCC student-athletes that he coached. Nine former players went on to compete on scholarships at the NCAA Division I level, with several more suiting up at NCAA Division II, Divison III and NAIA programs across the country. Tom Coombe reported on one of McDonald's recent milestones, in which he earned his 500th victory in February, 2017 against rival Central Lakes College. Read the orignal Ely Echo story on McDonald's 500th win by clicking here.
While the 2018-19 basketball season marks the final chapter in Paul McDonald's coaching career at Vermilion, he will continue his work and service to Ely and Northern Minnesota in his recently elected position of board member with the St. Louis (Mn) County Board. McDonald will represent the District 4 portion of the Arrowhead region, which covers the northern half of St. Louis County and extends to the townships just north of the city of Duluth. His initial term of service is for four years. More on McDonald's election victory is available in this story written by Tom Olsen and published by the Duluth News Tribune on November 7, 2018.
McDonald also has served on the Board of Directors for the Minnesota State High School League, helping to guide and advise one of the largest high school sports and activities Associations in the U.S. When he was not coaching in a game, McDonald still found ways to contribute to high school and college sport in Minnesota, working as a well-respected basketball and football official in both the high school and college ranks. The Minnesota Community College Conference, established in 1967 and known later as the Minnesota College Athletic Conference, was fortunate to have McDonald in several leadership roles, including his service as MCAC men's division president through March, 2018.
Minnesota basketball fans will likely recognize the McDonald family coaching tree as it extends to the hardwood and classrooms around the state. McDonald's father, Bob McDonald, served as the head coach at Chisholm High School and is the all-time high school wins leader in Minnesota. His own legendary career in the gyms on the Iron Range were featured in the 2011 CBS Minnesota report by Mike Max and WCCO-TV available at this link. Upon his retirement in 2014, Bob McDonald's record stood at 1,012 wins - 428 losses across a remarkable 53 seasons of coaching in Minnesota high school basketball.
This Saturday, after the conclusion of the Vermilion-Rainy River contest, friends, fans and followers are invited to a social gathering at Zaverls in Ely in celebration of not only an amazing and influencial coaching career, but also the next chapter of service by Paul McDonald to the Iron Range of Minnesota.
Vermilion, a NJCAA-affiliated two-year college athletic program and member of the Minnesota State system is situated in picturesque Ely, on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. To learn more about Vermilion Community College, please go to: http:/www.vcc.edu
MCAC Men's Basketball Standings: http://www.mcacsports.org/sports/mbkb/2018-19/standings
MCAC Men's Basketball Schedule: http://www.mcacsports.org/sports/mbkb/2018-19/schedule
NJCAA Division III National Statistical Leaders: http://www.njcaa.org/sports/mbkb/2018-19/div3/leaders
MCAC Men's Basketball Statistical Leaders: http://www.mcacsports.org/sports/mbkb/2018-19/leaders
All things NJCAA Basketball can be found on the NJCAA Basketball Twitter feed; click below for more info.
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About the Minnesota College Athletic Conference
The Minnesota College Athletic Conference is the organizational body for NJCAA-affiliated two-year technical and community college athletic programs in the Minnesota State system. The mission of the Minnesota College Athletic Conference is to advance intercollegiate athletics by providing an engaging and supportive environment for success of our student athletes and competition among member institutions. The MCAC is committed to the guiding principles of encouraging the development and success of student athletes, promoting the integrity, honesty and loyalty to member schools as well as upholding the sustainability of conference athletic programs.