Prep boys basketball: Chisholm's McDonald gets career win No. 1,000

CHISHOLM -- Bob McDonald sauntered from the bowels of Hibbing's Lincoln Middle School onto the basketball court Thursday night, shaking hands and slapping backs with well-wishers who had come to see him take aim at career win No. 1,000.

Bob McDonald
Chisholm boys basketball coach Bob McDonald with the game ball after winning his 1,000th career game on Thursday, Dec. 27, 2013, in Hibbing. (Steve Kuchera /
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CHISHOLM -- Bob McDonald sauntered from the bowels of Hibbing's Lincoln Middle School onto the basketball court Thursday night, shaking hands and slapping backs with well-wishers who had come to see him take aim at career win No. 1,000.

When it was over, an emotional McDonald was in a league of his own -- becoming Minnesota's first coach to reach quadruple digits for victories, and just the 13th boys coach nationwide to do so. His steady Bluestreaks harassed Walker-Hackensack-Akeley for 36 minutes en route to a 61-55 win in front of a packed gym on the opening day of the Hibbing Holiday Tournament.

The electric atmosphere resembled that of a state tournament game, which made one thing abundantly clear: Fans wanted to witness history on this cold December night on the Iron Range.

"It was the (most fun) game of basketball I've ever played," said Chisholm senior Mitch Rusten, who scored 16 points. "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. Son Joel


McDonald, the Hibbing coach, presented his father with the game ball while reading a few words, including a touching note about his mother and Bob McDonald's first wife, Darlene, who died of cancer in 1997. Father and son then embraced, moist eyes filling the gymnasium.

"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. The coach once again has a pretty good team on his hands, and now the focus can return to basketball and prolonging the six-game winning streak Chisholm is on ever since it lost two straight to open the season.

"If we drop this game, we only prolong the agony, so to speak," the Bluestreaks' coach of 53 years said. "And you're tying up a lot of young people with a lot of pressure, so I'm glad it happened tonight."

McDonald's record is a mind-boggling 1,000-421 in 59 seasons as a head coach. He got his start in McGregor and then landed at Barnum before commencing his Chisholm tenure in 1961.

"When I started off at McGregor, we wouldn't have to count my wins," McDonald said. "I would win three games a season, every one of those hard-fought."

Now, 20 wins is the norm for the Bluestreaks, who have won three state titles under McDonald. Thursday, they relied on a trapping half-court defense that disrupted the Wolves' rhythm while leading to a bevy of transition baskets for the de facto home team -- though Chisholm technically was the visitor on the scoreboard.

The Bluestreaks had just four scorers. Jaustin Culbert led the way with 20 points, none more prominent than the two he dunked home with nine minutes left that gave Chisholm a 44-41 lead and sent a jolt through the crowd. Aaron Musburger added 19 points, and Austin Campbell had six.


Leading 34-29 at halftime, the Bluestreaks benefited from an impossibly cold-shooting WHA team that missed all 12 of its second-half 3-point attempts. The Wolves were 2-for-25 overall from beyond the arc.

"We have been shooting quite a bit better from 3-point range, but we just couldn't make anything tonight," WHA coach Pat Richter said.

Chris Duff led the Wolves with 24 points. His putback with six minutes to play gave WHA a 49-48 lead, but Chisholm took control from there to ensure a festive celebration for its venerable coach.

McDonald remained seated throughout the evening. At 80, and after myriad surgeries, he doesn't move as well as he once did. A pronounced gait accompanies each step.

But the wits, the sense of humor and the basketball IQ remain as sharp as ever. It's easy to imagine that McDonald has forgotten more about the game of basketball than most will ever know.

"It's amazing that everything he does still works, and he's been making it work for the last 60 years," Rusten said. "He knows how to work with the kids, he knows all the tricks. One of the best the state's ever had."

Musburger agreed.

"It was an honor to be part of that," said Musburger, like his teammates, decked out in a suit symbolic of the discipline and class with which the Bluestreaks carry themselves.


"It's not the basketball, it's the quality of kids making the basketball," McDonald said.

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. Current 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 ever has seen.

"That 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."

More than a half-century later, it's safe to assume McDonald is all paid up.

Chisholm 34-27--61

WHA 29-26--55

Chisholm -- Jaustin Culbert 20, Aaron Musburger 19, Mitch Rusten 16, Austin Campbell 6. Totals 26 9-10 61.

3-point goals -- None.

Walker-Hackensack-Akeley -- Chris Duff 24, Josh Widman 4, Austin Richter 9, Jono Swedberg 2, Logan Gross 8, Jared Andersen 4, Dustin Ovitt 4. Totals 24 5-8 55.

3-point goals -- Gross, Richter.

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