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Dayton Diary: Who was that man called Donoher?

Dayton Diary: Who was that man called Donoher?

Thomas M. Columbus June 07, 2024

I did not know the priest at the funeral of Don Donoher ’54. As he got up to talk, I hoped he knew something about UD basketball’s Coach Donoher. Some funerals may contain well-meant but generic platitudes — successful coach, loving family man, teacher, believer.

Don Donoher pencil illustration
Coach Donoher. Illustration by Ron Acklin.

The priest, Father Ed Pratt, pastor of the three parishes that compose the Kettering (Ohio) Catholic Community, talked of Coach Donoher’s Last Anointing. Donoher may have appeared to be sleeping, but when the priest had concluded the sacrament, Coach said simply, “Thank you.”

Father Ed told other stories. One was of when he was chaplain at Bishop Fenwick High School. (Donoher, after coaching 700 collegiate basketball games and winning respect nationwide, spent a decade as an assistant at Bishop Fenwick, beginning when his grandson Kevin was playing there.) As Father Pratt came into the gym one day, the coaches were gathered on one side and players were in their own group. He went up to the players and asked them if they knew who the older man was who was helping to coach them.

“Sure. He’s Kevin’s grandpa.”

Pratt told the story to Donoher. He saw perhaps a tear in Coach’s eye. And the winningest coach in the history of the University of Dayton said, “Being Kevin’s grandpa is more important to me than any of the basketball victories that I had.”

Father Pratt indeed knew something about who Coach Donoher was.

He knew what those — coaches, sportswriters, former players and fans who mourn him — know. As Anthony Grant ’87, current UD men’s basketball coach and former player under Donoher, put it when Donoher won U.S. Basketball Writer Association’s Dean Smith Award for spirit and values, “We know who he is as a man, who he was as a coach, and what he stands for.”

May he rest in peace.

Forever on the field