The Dakota Dome opened as the home for the South Dakota Coyotes in 1979, and the rival Jackrabbits from South Dakota State were playing their first men’s basketball game there on Jan. 10, 1980.

There was a riled-up crowd of 8,000 watching as Paul McDonald threw a lob pass and Steve Lingenfelter dunked in the final minute, putting the game away for the visitors.

A moment later, a bottle came flying from the stands and grazed McDonald’s head. “It was a Miller Lite,” he said. “The refs called off the game with 40 seconds left. We won 60-54.”

Paul was the second of the six McDonald children and they all went into the family business started by father Bob: coaching basketball. The patriarch retired as Chisholm’s coach in 2014, with 1,012 victories in 53 years of high school coaching.

Mike, Tom, Joel, Sue and Judy also have coached high school basketball (or continue to do so), and that’s where Paul started after South Dakota State. In 1990, he took a job as men’s basketball coach, football assistant, athletic director and health instructor at Vermilion Community College in Ely.

Last week, McDonald’s run-and-gun team ended the regular season with a 113-65 victory at Hibbing, and with no berth earned in the state tournament, that was it as a basketball coach:

Paul McDonald, elected last fall as one of the seven commissioners for sprawling St. Louis County, retired with a 545-242 record in 29 seasons at Vermilion.

Jay Pivec, a rival coach for years at Minneapolis Community and Technical College, said: “Paulie Mac wasn’t doing much up there at first and all of a sudden he was getting players from everywhere, including Key West.

“Key West to Ely? That takes a salesman.”

Vermilion went to three eight-team national tournaments in Delphi, N.Y. The Ironmen lost to Richland (Texas) 80-76 in the 1999 finals. Ronald Dodson was the star. He was the son of Thomas (Hit Man) Hearns and later took Hearns as his last name.

McDonald now will get his basketball fix by refereeing his usual 25-30 high school games, and with yarns told at his annual gathering of hoop-heads in the back room at J.D. Hoyt’s during the boys’ state tournament.

 

Read Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick.

 

PLUS THREE

More on the hoops front:

• Thomas Hearns brought his son Ronald to enroll at Vermilion CC and told McDonald over breakfast at Vertin’s: “Ely is the perfect place for my son. He can concentrate on books and basketball here.”

• Pivec has spent this season on scouting assignments from the San Antonio Spurs.

• Opinion: Richard Pitino has had lousier records, but this has been his worst coaching effort in six seasons. He’s gotten the least from this team.

 

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