Bob McDonald, the winningest-coach in Minnesota high school sports history, died Wednesday in Hibbing at age 87 after being diagnosed with COVID-19.
McDonald, who coached the Chisholm boys’ team for 53 seasons and 59 seasons toal, won 1,012 games in his career before retiring after the 2013-14 season.
A native of Chisholm on northeastern Minnesota’s Iron Range, McDonald led the Bluestreaks to 11 state tournaments and won three state titles. His career coaching record was 1,012-428.
McDonald died at Guardian Angels Health and Rehabilitation Center, according to his son, Paul. He had tested positive for the virus and was symptom-free for a couple weeks before he was overcome with it, he said.
The 90-bed facility is where 65 residents and staff have tested positive for COVID since the pandemic began, and at least nine residents have died of the virus, according to an update on its website.
On Oct. 3, the National Guard sent a five-member team of medical professionals to help with resident care at Guardian Angels. The guard left after the situation had stabilized, according to a Minnesota Department of Health spokesman.
Tributes to McDonald poured out on social media Wednesday from basketball fans, coaches, former players and opponents, lauding his role as coach, teacher and mentor. Some of his grandsons went to Twitter, asking to hear stories of their grandfather and telling some of their own.
McDonald graduated from Chisholm in 1951 and earned a basketball scholarship to the University of Michigan. He left Michigan after one semester and eventually landed at the University of Minnesota-Duluth, where he led the team in scoring twice.
He began his coaching career with four season in McGregor and then two seasons at Barnum before settling in at Chisholm in 1961.
Beyond his coaching success, McDonald was just as famous for his strict approach with his players, which included mandating short, above-the-ears haircuts for all players and shirts and ties when in public. He exemplified the discipline he demanded of his players, claiming in his book “Travels and Tribulations: A Coach’s Journey,” that he never took a drink or smoked a cigarette in his life.
After McDonald retired, the Chisholm School District named the high school gym for him in 2017. The Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association started the McDonald Award to recognize the top senior basketball player in Minnesota.
In 2018 McDonald was elected to the inaugural class of the Minnesota High School Basketball Hall of Fame.
His six children — four sons and two daughters — played basketball and followed their father into coaching.
McDonald was one of just 20 boys’ basketball coaches across the nation to have compiled more than 1,000 career victories. According to the National Federation of High Schools Record Book, his 1,012 victories ranks him 18th of all time.
Staff writers Chris Serres, Patrick Reusse and Jim Paulsen contributed to this report.