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Inspiring Canadians - In Sport and Life

Honoured Member

JACK DONOHUE

Inducted in 2004

Member Details

Date of Birth: June 4, 1931
Place of Birth: New York, New York
Date of Passing: April 16, 2003
Sport: Basketball
Member Category: Builder

Career Highlights

1983

World University Games, Edmonton - Gold medal

1991

Inducted into the Canadian Olympic Sports Hall of Fame

1992

Inducted into the New York, Canadian and Basketball Hall of Fames

Honoured Member JACK DONOHUE
Inspire

Story

Jack Donohue made the decision early in life. He toiled as an assistant coach in basketball while a student at Fordham University, and by the age of 20 he knew he wanted to be a coach for life. Following his undergraduate degree in economics, Donohue attended New York University, earning a Master's Degree in health education. He was ready to begin his coaching career, but as happened in those days, Uncle Sam had other ideas. He spent two years in the U.S. Army stationed in Korea working on tanks in the Korean conflict. When he returned to the U.S. in 1954, he started his teaching career at St. Luke's Episcopal primary school in New York but transferred a year later to St. Nicholas of Tolentine High School where he had the opportunity to coach basketball. He remained at the school for five years, developing his unique approach to coaching that gave his players lessons in life as well as basketball. This served him in good stead when he moved to Power Memorial High School in Manhattan. It was here that he had the good fortune to coach a young player named Lew Alcindor, who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Donohue was able to guide the young superstar through his formative years, keeping him focused on becoming as good a person as he was a player. The results were outstanding. At one point, the team won 71 consecutive games. This success earned Donohue an opportunity to become the head coach of Holy Cross University, a Division One school in Worcester, Massachusetts. During his career at Holy Cross, Donohue amassed a record of 106 wins against 66 losses. He was twice named NCAA Division One coach of the year. In 1972, Basketball Canada was searching for a coach who could elevate the country's basketball program to a world-class level. Donohue, who jokingly referred to himself as "The total loss from Holy Cross," was the choice, and he did not disappoint. His coaching record through the next 17 years was outstanding - and, incidentally, the longest coaching tenure in amateur or professional Canadian sports. Two years after taking over the program, Canada finished 8th at the World Championship. In 1975, it placed 6th at the Pan-American Games. His magic continued at the Montreal Olympics in 1976 with a 4th place finish. He added three more fourth-place finishes in international tournaments, then in 1983 Canada won the gold medal at the World University Games in Edmonton, defeating the United States in the semi-final and Yugoslavia in the final. The program had steadily reached its potential. In the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, Canada again finished 4th , captured a bronze medal at the 1985 World University Games, and finished 6th in Donohue's final tournament before retirement after the 1988 Olympics. In 1994, he co-chaired the World Cup of wheelchair basketball with another Canadian icon, Rick Hansen, in Edmonton. Donahue held impromptu basketball clinics outside of Skyreach Centre during mid-afternoons so anybody—regardless of size, age, or talent-could enjoy the game he so dearly loved. His contribution to coaching and sport in Canada was not limited to courtside activity. He was a marketing and public relations consultant for Canada Basketball from 1972, spokesperson for the Year of the Coach in 1989, and director of international relations and director of Canadian development for the Vancouver Grizzlies from 1995 to 1997 among his many other responsibilities. Donohue's greatest contribution was his philosophy with respect to rounding out one's playing with concentrated effort on living life off the court as an exemplary human being - that playing was only one part of a fulfilled life. In his words, "You can only be a good basketball player for a certain amount of time. You can be a good person for the rest of your life." For his coaching and teaching abilities and achievements, Donohue received many honours including the King Clancy Award for his work with the disabled, election to the New York City, Canadian, and Ontario Basketball Halls of Fame and, of course, induction into the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame.


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