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For years, teams from across the province have participated in the Golden Hoop High School Basketball Tournaments in Sudbury.

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Truth be told, they weren’t about to run into a more courteous event planner than Doug MacKay.

“I’m probably the best tournament host ever because we’ve never won my own tournament,” the 76-year-old retired teacher, coach and sports administrator said with a laugh.

In fact, according to his account, the man who helped guide mostly novice and junior teams at both Garson-Falconbridge High School and Lo-Ellen Park High School, for a period ranging from approximately 1971 to around 2008, also didn’t stack up the trophy case as an athlete, dating back to his youth in Orillia.

“I was probably the worst athlete in the family,” suggested the youngest of the clan’s four boys. The eldest, Angus, went off to play a bit of football at Queen’s University before a knee injury – or, more accurately, a series of knee injuries – sent him on the sidelines.

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While curling, baseball and golf have all been thrown into MacKay’s sports mix at various times, usually not with much success, football has had a more special place in the life of the young man who grew up just in opposite the local secondary school. school.

“I played curling in grade 9, but I didn’t really like it,” MacKay said. “Actually, it’s like golf – I like it, but it doesn’t like me.”

As for the appeal of the grill, it didn’t hurt that with a 10-year age gap between him and Angus, young Douglas was aware of the excitement that could be created at a time when Orillia’s high school sports scene was as lively and vibrant as anywhere in the province.

“I remember my older brother playing football because the games were packed,” MacKay recalls. “He was a very good player. I got injured in high school and once I got injured I kind of lost my edge. After that I was a lot more careful. would attack anyone.

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Fortunately, basketball was waiting, but not as a player.

“There were no youth leagues or elementary league basketball back then,” MacKay said. “In high school, I didn’t even think about playing basketball, but I don’t know why.”

But as a coach, from his own high school days, the sports-minded teenager was a natural, first taking on the Orillia District High School Grade 9 team as they competed to an improvised municipal league. By the time he graduated from Carleton with an undergraduate degree and was contemplating the next step towards a career, that love of being on the sidelines hadn’t waned.

“I think I applied to teacher school because I really wanted to be a coach,” MacKay said. “And in those days, most people didn’t even play basketball until they got to high school.”

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A job fair held at the Royal York Hotel in downtown Toronto would bring the young educator to Sudbury, beginning a six-year stint at the GFSS in the early 1970s.

“I remember my first game against Lasalle, I had our midget team and I thought it was at least their junior team on the field,” he offered with a smile.

“We were well taken.”

In his freshman year, his crew recorded a single solitary win, while dropping an exhibition match against a college opponent. The following year was similar. But by Grade 3, MacKay was getting a bit of a buy-in.

“I trained every night and on weekends – then we added some morning workouts,” he said. “That was my philosophy.”

Well, that and putting together a team that felt like a track team at times, rushing all over the floor.

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“We became a press team (all over the pitch), throughout the game,” he explained. “I didn’t care about the score – up 50 or down 50, you press. I conditioned them to that. At the end of the year, we were good.

If that sounds a little unsportsmanlike, it’s worth noting that, especially early on when the numbers were big, MacKay would run a roster of 15 players at intervals of about three minutes each. While the constant pressure may have given opponents headaches, the scoreline wasn’t about to get absurd with his third unit on the pitch.

If his calling card as a coach was the press, his administrative calling card became the Golden Hoop tournament. At one point, Lo-Ellen Park hosted the novice, junior and senior divisions for three consecutive weekends, with MacKay guaranteed to be in the gym from noon on Friday until late Sunday afternoon.

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Secondary benefits, for his teams, were a boatload of matches.

“Once you start a tournament, you make more and more contacts,” MacKay said. “I would get a lot of exhibition games; we would play anyone. Before our first (regular season) game, I wanted to have 10-15 practices and at least a few exhibition games.

Unsurprisingly, invitations to tournaments followed, with his Knights often going on out-of-town treks, which also allowed the coach and administrator to gain even more knowledge along the way.

“I modeled some of my tournaments on the Timmins High tournament,” MacKay said. “The gymnasium at Timmins High was a sanctuary for basketball.

Over the years, the same could be said for Lo-Ellen — though Doug MacKay made sure, not on purpose, that the Knights’ home wasn’t about to be filled with championship banners from tournament – ​​at least not from his own tournaments.

Randy Pascal’s Nickel City Nostalgia column airs every two weeks.


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