By: Keith Raad – Sports Editor
When former Dayton Flyers head coach Don Donoher heard of his election to the National Basketball Hall of Fame, he humbly redirected the attention from himself, to the current state of men’s basketball at the university.
“We’re rolling this year, and it was time for the Hall of Fame to lift a glass to the University of Dayton Flyers,” Donoher said during a media session Monday.
It is no mistake however, that Donoher’s vote was cast. He amassed 437 wins among his 25 years as head coach. Though he had a hand in coaching his team to the NCAA tournament eight times, Donoher played under his mentor Tom Blackburn. One of his greatest memories as a Flyer was scoring the game-winning basket in the upset of No. 1 Seton Hall University.
Donoher is the first of now three coaches in the history of basketball to take his team to the NCAA Division I championship game as a coach, after qualifying as a player.
“I just think it’s all about the university: players, administration, staff, fans,” Donoher said. “I’ve looked carefully but I’ve never seen a coach’s name in a box score. To me, it all comes down to the people around you on these types of things.”
The Hall of Fame, located in Kansas City, Missouri, will hold its induction Nov. 20 of this year at the Arvest Bank Theatre. Donoher joins seven other classmates in the award.
When asked about knowing his tenure at the university would spread two decades, Donoher recalled a story he tells often about Hank Finkel.
“You’re just year-to-year [as head coach],” Donoher said. “You’re hoping you can just milk another year out of it. The key for me was Henry Finkel.”
The seven-foot Finkel played under Blackburn in the early 60s and averaged over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. However, toward the end of the 1964 season, Blackburn passed away from cancer. It was then that Donoher was promoted from assistant to head coach.
Despite receiving calls from the NBA, Finkel remained on campus for not one, but two of his remaining years. Finkel took Donoher’s Flyers to the Sweet Sixteen both seasons, with both losses to the tournament’s number one seed.
“He’s eligible for the NBA draft and for two years, back-to-back, he stays,” Donoher said. “I’ve always called him ‘four-and-more,’ compared to today’s ‘one-and-dones.’ Had he gone pro that year, I would have been ‘one-and-done.’”