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Legendary Chisholm basketball coach McDonald recovering after crash

Chisholm boys basketball coach Bob McDonald was injured in a car crash Thursday evening in Hibbing. Though listed in serious condition, McDonald retained his well-known sense of humor Friday. (2011 file / News Tribune)

Despite suffering from ailments such as heart arrhythmia and undergoing as many as 10 surgeries for abdominal problems and to receive artificial joint replacements, Bob McDonald says before Friday he never had missed a game in 52 seasons coaching the Chisholm High School boys basketball team.

Now the legendary coach just hopes to have the chance to prowl the sideline once again.

The 79-year-old McDonald, Minnesota's all-time wins leader in any high school sport, suffered four fractured ribs and leg lacerations Thursday night after rear-ending a Komatso front-end loader while heading southbound on Highway 169 in Hibbing. He spent the past two nights in the intensive care unit at Fairview University Medical Center-Mesabi in Hibbing.

"I was going to pass him, but whacked him right in the rear end and really got thrown for a loop," he said by telephone Friday from the hospital's ICU. "I hit the steering wheel with the right side of my chest, fracturing those ribs and lacerating my leg."

McDonald, who was headed from Chisholm's practice to watch son Joel coach Hibbing's game against Grand Rapids, was alone in his 2006 Dodge Caravan. The driver of the front-loader, 19-year-old Michael Lastovich, was not injured, according to a report by the Minnesota State Patrol. The report also stated McDonald was wearing his seatbelt and that his airbag deployed. Alcohol was not involved and road conditions were dry at the time of the 6 p.m. accident.

Though listed in serious condition and very sore, McDonald was in good spirits and his well-documented sense of humor remained intact.

"I feel like I've been through the mill, but after fighting with my wife (Carol) all these years I find that I'm well-prepared for these injuries," he said with a chuckle.

Several well-wishers stopped by throughout the day, McDonald said.

"You'd think they were serving drinks here since everyone's showing up," he quipped. "I appreciate that because they're concerned just like I would be for anybody who goes through a traumatic experience that limits what gives them pleasure in life."

McDonald, who recorded his 988th victory Tuesday and is poised to become just the 13th boys coach nationally to win 1,000, said he expects to remain hospitalized through the weekend. Friday night's game at Deer River is the first the 58-year veteran has missed since a ruptured Achilles tendon sidelined him for two days while coaching at McGregor in the 1950s. Assistant Larry Pervananze also will coach today's game against Virginia, and it seems unlikely McDonald would be able to return for games Monday and Tuesday against Wrenshall and Hibbing, respectively.

Joel McDonald was watching his team's junior varsity game when his wife called and told him the news about the accident.

"At that point, I went up to the hospital and checked him out," Joel said. "They hadn't stitched up his leg yet and they were prepping to take him to get a CT scan of his head, neck and chest. He was in pretty decent spirits at that time -- considering what he had gone through -- but I think he was in shock, too."

Still, the venerable coach told his youngest son that his main responsibility was to return and coach the varsity game.

"That was his biggest concern," Joel said, "but he's always been that kind of guy."