Ken McDonald has paid his dues up the coaching ranks and it paid off big last week. The CCRI Hall of Famer and former basketball standout was recently named head coach of the Austin Toros of the NBA Development League.
The San Antonio Spurs announced on September 24 that the Rhode Island native would head their D-League team. McDonald was an assistant coach for the Toros during the 2012-13 season, as he helped lead Austin to an overall record of 27-23 and to the semifinals of the D-League playoffs.
McDonald, who was an All-State selection at North Providence High School, quickly established himself as a player to watch upon stepping foot on the court at CCRI. By the time he was a sophomore in 1990, McDonald was etching his name in the record books. As a First Team All-American that year, McDonald till this day is still second all-time in three offensive categories at CCRI—points in a single season (754), 3-pointers in a game (9), and 3-pointers in a season (109).
“I look back with a lot of pride and a lot of great memories,” McDonald said. “I’ve been very fortunate in my playing and coaching career to have been around good people and good coaches. I look back on my experience at CCRI and I absolutely loved my time there. I didn’t know how far it could take me, but it far exceeded the expectations that I had. All of the people that are associated with the athletic department and the school were just a lot of fun to be around. I still think of those teams we had and the friendships—the ride was just an incredible ride.”
McDonald then played two seasons at Providence College, where he was a standout for the Friars, before playing professionally in Ireland for the St. Paul Revelles.
After his playing career came to an end, McDonald knew he wanted to coach, leading to a number of impressive assistant coaching positions, including stints with Clemson, Western Kentucky, Georgia, and Texas. Coaching alongside Rick Barnes at Texas proved to be beneficial for McDonald’s coaching career. In McDonald’s four years as an assistant with Texas, the Longhorns made four straight NCAA Tournament appearances, compiling an overall record of 106-35 in that span.
With his impressive track record as an assistant coach, it was only a matter of time before someone gave him a chance as a head coach. That someone was Western Kentucky University. McDonald had success immediately with the Hilltoppers, leading his team to a Sun Belt Conference championship, an NCAA Tournament second round appearance, and an overall record of 25-8 during the 2008-09 season. In his reign as head coach of Western Kentucky between 2008-11, McDonald had an overall record of 67-48 and a conference record of 36-19.
“I have 18 years as an assistant coach and, once again, I’ve been fortunate enough to be around some great people,” McDonald said. “Rick Barnes, Dennis Felton, Larry Shyatt, Fran Fraschilla, and Dan Gavitt at Providence—these are all people that helped shape me and gave me ideas and encouragement to move on in this business. I had an opportunity to be a head coach at Western Kentucky and that was a great experience. I was then fortunate enough to land here with the Toros as an assistant last year and it’s just been an incredible year.”
McDonald will make his much anticipated professional head coaching debut on November 22, when the Toros visit the Santa Cruz Warriors to open their 2013-14 season.
The Community College of Rhode Island, New England’s largest comprehensive community college, enrolls nearly 18,000 students in credit courses and thousands more in non-credit and job training classes. Its athletic program boasts 12 varsity programs and an academic support program for all student-athletes.