John's Journal
‘Severe’ Back Pain Sidelines Apple Valley’s Tyus Jones12/19/2012
Apple Valley basketball star Tyus Jones, one of the nation's top recruits, left Tuesday 's game against Hopkins with a back injury that kept him from practicing for a week and his status is uncertain. The good news for Apple Valley was that they defeated Hopkins with Jones watching from the bench. Read the details by clicking here.
Coaches Review The New Class 6A Football Format12/18/2012
After the first year of Class 6A football, coaches in 6A and 5A were surveyed on what they liked and what they didn't like about the new class, the playoff format and other topics. Read Brian Jerzak's story by clicking here.
A Night For Harvey: Fulda Raises Lots Of Money, Has Lots Of Fun12/17/2012
FULDA – You know it’s a fun night when this happens …

The Fulda girls basketball team holds an eight-point lead over Luverne as the home team calls a timeout with 62 seconds to play. Before talking to his team, Fulda coach Gregg Slaathaug needs to know the spot where the ball will be inbounded. He looks to one of the officials, who is standing on the opposite side of the court, holding the ball.

Slaathaug asks the official, “Is that the spot? Right there, by the bald guy?”

Indeed, a member of the local citizenry is sitting in the first row, the gymnasium lights reflecting off the top of his head. He smiles and raises his arms in a gesture that says, “Who? Me?” Yes. You.

And so it went on Saturday night in a little gym in Murray County, 18 miles north of Worthington. Six rows of bleachers on either side of the court, more fans sitting on the stage behind one basket. It was a girls-boys basketball doubleheader between Luverne and Fulda, but the meaning of the evening went much deeper; into the hearts and souls of folks from Fulda and the surrounding area who know and love a man named Harvey Carroll.

Harvey’s status as a fixture in this town of 1,300 people began to take root when he arrived as a teacher and coach in 1980. For the next 27 years, every youngster in Fulda knew Harvey. He taught sixth grade and was head or assistant coach of basketball, football and track teams. He helped run the elementary basketball program, had a hand in the Fulda summer recreation program and worked as a volleyball official for 10 years.

Somehow, Harvey also found time to work on a painting crew in the summers, battle weeds on the local golf course, make unannounced deliveries of sweet corn and squash to neighbors and do a thousand other things for the kids and adults in Fulda.

He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease in 2005 and taught and coached for two more years. Parkinson’s is a brain condition that is characterized by slowness of movement, stiffness, rigidity, loss of balance and coordination and difficulties with speech. Nowadays Harvey gets around with the aid of a walker.

As the girls game ended Saturday night, longtime football coach and current track coach Brad Holinka took the microphone and said, “Don’t run away right now, we’re going to do some things for Harvey.”

Hearing those words, the crowd stood as one and began applauding. Harvey, his wife Sharon and other family members and friends were in one corner of the gym, where a chair is placed for Harvey at every game. Written on a piece of paper taped to the chair was: “Reserved for Harvey Carroll.”

The people had no reservations in showing their love for Carroll. The applause went on and on and everyone remained standing as Holinka talked about what Harvey means to Fulda.

“Harvey Carroll has left a lasting impression,” he said. “Our community, all the coaches around the area, everybody knows Harvey.

“Harvey always started with the kids. And the kids started in elementary school, went from football to basketball to track, and then the little kids went to summer rec, and Harvey was there, too. This started in 1980 and went until 2007. That’s a lasting impression. Let’s give a big round of applause for Harvey Carroll.”

After the serenade died down, Holinka wrapped up the formal presentation with these words: “We are all very, very proud, Harvey, to have you as a friend and call you a friend. Everyone in here can attest to that. You truly are an inspiration to anyone you’ve ever been associated with. One more time, ladies and gentlemen.”

And the thunder of applause swept through the little gym once again. Many of the people wore T-shirts that carried the words “Support Cure Advocate; Parkinson’s Disease Awareness.”

The shirts were being sold in the school lobby, which was filled with items for a silent auction. The items included some real gems; footballs, jerseys, photos and other memorabilia autographed by the likes of Adrian Peterson, Joe Mauer, Mike Krzyzewski, Derek Jeter, Johnny Unitas, Kent Hrbek, Fred Hoiberg, George Brett, John Wooden, Rod Carew and on and on.

A raffle and meal was also held to raise funds, with all the money going to National Parkinsons Foundation Minnesota. Fulda boys basketball coach Colby Pack directed the efforts as a way to pay tribute to Harvey and fight the disease. Pack, Slaathaug and assistant boys basketball coach Steve Kellen sparked the idea while watching a volleyball match in early October, and everything came together quickly.

Pack said, “A lot of schools do Coaches vs. Cancer and we said, ‘Why not honor one of our former coaches who has Parkinson’s Disease?’ I’ve done these raffles before; I have a nephew with Down Syndrome and we’ve had auctions so I had a few connections. It’s one of those things where we probably sent 300 letters and 400 emails. It was time-consuming but well worth it.”

The meal was terrific: pulled pork sandwiches, chips and a delightful array of homemade desserts. Free-will donations were made by the hungry diners, and the total amount raised at the event will come to around $12,000.

Fans came to the gym on a wet, snowy night, hung their outerwear on coat racks and packed the place. They bought T-shirts, perused the auction items and wrote down their bids. A steady line moved through the cafeteria. After a moment of silence was observed for the victims of the previous day’s Connecticut school shooting, Fulda senior Mallory Pagel sang a wonderful national anthem.

As the boys teams warmed up, I sat in the bleachers and closed my eyes for a few seconds. The song “Some Nights” by the band Fun was playing on the sound system, accompanied by the squeaks of sneakers and the bouncing of a couple dozen basketballs.

Saturday night, a small-town gym, friends gathering to honor someone who has touched so many lives, teams competing. That’s a perfect combination.

--To see a photo gallery from the evening in Fulda, go to the MSHSL Facebook page.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 381
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 5,349
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn
(Updated!) Another Coach McDonald Makes His Debut At Duluth East12/11/2012
(Update ... At the end of this story are these words: "Rhett and his wife Kayelyn are expecting their first child any day now. It’s going to be a boy." Ganon Xavier McDonald was born Friday morning; 9.7 pounds, 22.5 inches. Congratulations!)

If the new boys basketball coach at Duluth East had a name like Smith or Johnson or Hanson or Jones, his hiring would probably not make a giant splash. But when the name is McDonald, people notice.

Rhett McDonald is 25 years old and in his first season as the coach of the Duluth East Greyhounds. He is a third-generation coach in Minnesota’s first family of basketball. Rhett’s grandfather is Bob McDonald, who is in his 57th season as a coach and 52nd at Chisholm. Bob is the state’s career victories leader with 984 as the season began.

Rhett McDonald was coached by his father, Mike, at Cambridge-Isanti High School, where Rhett was named all-state honorable mention and played in the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association all-star series. In college at Minnesota-Duluth, he was a four-year letterwinner and team captain as a senior.

Here’s the rundown on Bob McDonald’s other children and their coaching jobs:

Paul coaches the men’s basketball team at Vermilion Community College in Ely, Tom is the boys coach at Ely High School and Joel coaches the boys team at Hibbing High School. Bob McDonald’s daughters, Sue and Judy, are former coaches.

With a pedigree like that, it’s no surprise that Rhett (pictured) became a coach.

“I can remember being in first grade and really wanting to be a basketball coach and a teacher. Honestly, I’ve never thought about doing anything else,” Rhett said at Saturday’s Breakdown Tip Off Classic at Minnetonka High School, where Duluth East lost to Prior Lake 85-56.

Mike McDonald is not surpised at all that his son became a coach.

“I think from the time he was probably three or four years old and going on scouting trips with me, until he got older and was working out himself, I think that was his only career choice,” Mike said.

Rhett McDonald was an assistant coach at Owatonna last season. The East job became available when the contract of coach Chuck Tolo was not renewed after last season. The Greyhounds have played in 13 state tournaments, including the last two.

Rhett applied for the job, not knowing what would happen. Or as he put it, “Honestly, I threw my name in the hat and did not expect too much back.” He was interviewed and offered the job. He also teaches special education at East.

“Duluth East has always been my dream job,” he said. “As a kid I remember going up and watching Duluth East teams. For some reason I always liked East basketball. I just attached to them, even though they were in our section and kind of our rival. I guess Duluth was where I wanted to end up, and East was the high school I wanted to be at.”

Rhett was the first player from Cambridge-Isanti to play Division II college basketball since Mike McDonald took over as coach.

“I knew he wanted to be a head coach and he had a good experience at Owatonna with a quality team and a quality staff,” Mike said. “From the beginning I always thought he was beyond his years, maturity-wise. And his basketball IQ has always been high. I’m proud of him.”

After opening with losses to Eastview and Prior Lake, Rhett McDonald got career victory No. 1 when the Greyhounds won at Grand Rapids 65-43 on Tuesday night. McDonald is learning quickly that being a head coach means a lot more than directing players in practices and games.

“Even though I am the son of a coach, I’ve found out that there’s so much more that goes on that you don’t appreciate as a player or even as an assistant coach,” he said. “There’s a lot of planning, more stress, that you have to worry about from a head coach’s standpoint. It’s something I was aware of but I wasn’t ready.

“Inheriting a team that had a coach who was there for quite some time, the other difficulty was trying new things that we do and for them to buy into our philosophy. That hasn’t been a struggle, but it just takes time. This could be a three-year process, which we understand from a coaching standpoint. For me, I thought this might happen quicker, and it isn’t.”

Rhett’s team played his grandfather’s team in a preseason scrimmage at Esko, and “We were simply a little bit more athletic than they were,” Rhett said. “My grandpa still has a ton of energy, so he was up yelling.”

Bob McDonald called his grandson “a good well-balanced, mentally capable person. He’s a good boy. I don’t say much about any of my grandkids; they do their own thing. They’ve got their own furrow to plow. But he’s a very capable kid because he’s got sensibility. And he’s in a good school system there.”

Rhett said, “My grandpa continues to be an influence on my life, on the floor and off the floor. On the floor, we talk about building blocks, playing hard, playing with class. It’s something we’re trying to achieve at Duluth East. That is a big part of our concept within the program. A lot of the things we do offensively and defensively are things that are not totally his style; in the future we’d like to play at a fast pace, like his teams. He told me over the summer that I better have a pressing team. At this point we can’t do that, but I will continue to listen to him.

“I talk to my grandpa probably once a month, and there is at least one good thing from each conversation that I will remember for the rest of my life.”

Rhett said he learned about work ethic from watching his father, who has been the coach at Cambridge-Isanti since 1987. Rhett recalls his dad breaking down film until 2 o’clock in the morning, all part of the grind of the basketball season.

“My dad has always been encouraging me and pushing me to become a better player, person and now coach,” Rhett said. “Every basketball season, he loses about 15 pounds because of the stress. Those things showed me how much work it takes to be a decent coach no matter where you’re at. That’s something I keep telling myself, that this will someday all come together. I’ll continue to do the same things he did, and before you know it things will work out.”

No one is looking too far down the road, but father and son will go head-to-head when Cambridge-Isanti plays at Duluth East on Feb. 23. Adding to the family storyline, Rhett’s brother Kyle is a sophomore starter on the Cambridge-Isanti team.

“I honestly don’t know what to expect,” Rhett said. “I would like to think that I know a lot about them, and I bet my dad knows my plans, as well. We’ll see when that comes. I’m looking forward to it. That’s just a special situation.”

Rhett’s older sister Kailee is a senior on the Wisconsin-Superior women’s basketball team. His cousin Bryce Tesdahl played at Crosby-Ironton and Bemidji State and is now a graduate assistant coach at Minnesota-Duluth. It’s all part of the family business, which shows no signs of ending.

Mike McDonald said Kyle also wants to become a coach, and the fourth generation of Coach McDonalds may not be far off.

Rhett and his wife Kayelyn are expecting their first child any day now. It’s going to be a boy.

BY THE NUMBERS
*Schools/teams John has visited: 377
*Miles John has driven in the Toyota Camry: 5,033
(*During the 2012-13 school year)

--Join the MSHSL on Facebook by clicking on the Facebook button on the right side of www.mshsl.org. John Millea is on Twitter @MSHSLjohn

Sad News From New Prague: Longtime Teacher/Coach Dies Suddenly12/10/2012
Matt Shetka, middle school social studies teacher and 3-sport coach for New Prague Area Schools, passed away suddenly Saturday (December 9) from an apparent heart attack at the young age of 54. Matt was the head coach of the New Prague High School gymnastics and girls’ golf teams, and was a middle school volleyball coach. He taught in the New Prague Area School District for 33 years. (Shetka is the coach on the right in this photo.)

Matt’s success as a head varsity coach is legendary – he has led teams in two different sports to five state titles. His gymnastics teams have won three state championships (1984, 2001 & 2003), and the girls’ golf team has won two state championships (2010 & 2012) – most recently last spring. The gymnastics team has finished state runner-up seven times. The New Prague gymnastics team was state runner-up last year and is currently one of the favorites to win state this year.

Matt is survived by his wife Meg, who is an elementary teacher in the New Prague School District, and four adult sons.