John’s Journal: A New Coach Gets Victory No. 1
Forest Lake’s Kyle McDonald Joins The Family Business
Posted: Monday, December 20, 2021 - 2:51 PM
On the penultimate Preps Today with John Millea podcast of 2021 my co-host, Minneapolis Star Tribune sports columnist Jim Souhan, asked if I had any final thoughts before we ended the show. My mind immediately went to the future, and I expressed optimism for 2022. (You can hear that podcast – Episode 180 -- here: https://www.mshsl.org/podcasts/preps-today-john-millea)
That sense of optimism grew even stronger, and brought back ties to the past, after I attended a boys basketball game at Mounds View High School on Friday evening. The game was really fun, it was fast-paced, and the visiting Forest Lake Rangers came away with an exciting 65-57 win.
Before going into details of the game, let’s go back in time to the 1950s. A gentleman using a cane stood in the doorway to the gym on Friday and watched the action. He graduated from Forest Lake in 1959 and coached the boys basketball team at Mounds View for 45 years before retiring in 2012.
His name is Zigurd “Ziggy” Kauls and he is a member of almost any Hall of Fame you can imagine. The Mounds View gym bears his name: Kauls Court. Ziggy won 739 games with the Mustangs and stands fifth on the all-time Minnesota boys basketball coaching victory list.
Another name from way back was on the minds of a few people at Kauls Court on this night. Bob McDonald began his coaching career in 1955 at McGregor and became a legend at Chisholm, coaching for 59 years overall and winning a state-best 1,012 games. Bob was 87 when he died in October 2020.
The rookie head coach at Forest Lake is Kyle McDonald, one of Bob’s grandchildren. Kyle played basketball for his dad, Mike, the longtime coach at Cambridge-Isanti. His big brother Rhett did the same and is the head coach at Duluth East. Since Cambridge-Isanti did not have a game Friday night, Mike and Dayla McDonald came to Mounds View to watch their son’s team.
No matter the outcome, history would be made in one of two ways:
--The Mounds View Mustangs came into the game with 999 victories since the program began in the 1954-55 season.
--Kyle McDonald was hoping to notch his first career victory after the Rangers opened the season with three losses.
The second scenario played out, and it was historic. Kyle’s first win as a head coach came 66 years after his grandfather’s first.
When I interviewed Kyle after the game, the first thing he did was exactly what his father and grandfather would have done: He paid respect to the opponent.
“First, all the credit in the world goes to Mounds View,” Kyle said. “They’re a solid team, the atmosphere was crazy tonight.”
Indeed, the Mustangs are solid. They brought a 5-1 record into the game. Mounds View senior Dylan Wheeler made history in the final minute when he made a free throw for his 1,000th career point. Dylan, who led the Mustangs with 16 points, is a prime example of the team’s rich history; his dad, Shell Wheeler, played for Ziggy, as did his uncle Rich. Older brother Mitchell played for current coach Dave Leiser (an assistant to Kauls for 21 years) and graduated in 2018.
Mike McDonald watched the game from the second row, close to the scorer’s table. During a timeout in the second half, one of the officials walked over to Mike and said, “The kid can coach.”
Yes he can. And he’s proud to be part of the first family of Minnesota basketball.
“Grandpa was watching over me tonight and I felt it all the way through the day,” Kyle told me afterwards. “And to have my mom and dad here means the world to me. They’ve been by my side all the way through.”
Kyle played college basketball at Wisconsin-Eau Claire, then was a member of his dad’s coaching staff for one year before becoming an assistant coach at Forest Lake for a year. He was named head coach last May. He is 24 years old.
“Basketball is a really big part of our lives as McDonalds,” he said. “Our life revolves around it because of one man and that was Grandpa. We love the sport, but more importantly we love the people around it. And we love creating relationships and that's exactly what Grandpa did. And every single McDonald strives to be like him.”
Owen Waldoch, a 6-foot-6 sophomore, led Forest Lake with 22 points. Nolan Dumonceaux, a 5-11 sophomore guard, scored 20 and 6-2 senior Nick Bartlett had 14.
There will be plenty of McDonalds gathered at Augsburg College in Minneapolis in late December, when the teams coached by Mike, Rhett and Kyle compete in the eight-team Augsburg Holiday Tournament.
Kyle is thrilled to be in his new role.
“Honestly, it's a dream come true,” he said. “I remember talking to my dad and my brother less than two years ago and they asked me where my dream job is. I said it was Forest Lake. It’s where I always wanted to be. I had great respect for them when I was in high school. And it's just been a dream come true, being the head coach here. These guys work their butts off and I couldn't be more proud of them and our staff.”
As I wrote above, I am extremely optimistic about 2022. Seeing coaches young and old do good things, watching kids work together and compete, knowing the importance of history and seeing positive examples everywhere I go in our great state, it’s impossible to not be optimistic about the future, into 2022 and well beyond.
Happy New Year.
--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at firstname.lastname@example.org