**Before I begin, this is a written tribute for my basketball coach, Dave McCollough. Everything that has transpired behind the scenes will NOT be mentioned and has no bearing on the way I view my coach.
When you think of Noblesville Miller basketball, the usual suspects are brought up: Coverdale, Haffner, Whisler, Boser, Cam Smith…I could go on and on and on with the names that walked the floor of The Mill that paved the way for future Miller basketball stars.
There’s one name though that is synonymous with the revitalization of Miller Boys Basketball, and that’s Dave McCollough…or Coach Mac as many know him.
Basketball isn’t just a game in the state of Indiana or the town of Noblesville, it’s a way of life. Kids grow up dreaming of playing for an IHSAA State Basketball Championship, not the NBA Finals or the NCAA Final Four (or at least that was what happened with me). I always dreamed of donning the black and gold and running through the banner at The Mill in front of raucous crowds during the winter season.
That was my dream: to play high school basketball for the Millers. Coach Mac was the reason that dream was realized. He’s also the reason why many of his players today have gone on to great success outside of basketball, and I’d like to say I’m included in that group.
I began playing organized basketball in kindergarten for the Boys and Girls Club. To this day, I still remember the first time I got to play at Loren R. Williams Gymnasium, or what we all know as ‘The Mill’.
The mystique of running out on to the hardwood, seeing the Millers outlined in cursive, the big N at the center of the floor; I knew from that day forward I wanted to be a Miller. I knew I wanted to be a part of Miller Basketball.
I was 6 six years old, and I already had a dream to aspire for. My idols growing up weren’t football stars or major league home run kings (Reggie Miller was the exception). The people I looked up to were Tom Coverdale, Justin Anderson, Ryan Murray…members of those Noblesville Miller teams from the 90′s.
I’ll never forget the times I played on the same floor as my idols in summer camps. During those camps I even got to be coached by some of my favorite players during team battles. It was the little things like picking out a college for your team name or the ribbons you won during the fundamental skills competitions that kept me aspiring to play for Coach Mac and the Millers.
I followed and watched the team every year and every chance I got after getting hooked with those camps. The 1997 team will always go down as my favorite. Their historic run to semi-state and listening to the game over the radio when they lost to LaPorte…that was Coach Mac’s third year coaching the Millers. What a precedent he set in such a short amount of time.
The 1998 season was devastating seeing Pike defeat us on our home floor (Coverdale was still fouled, no one will ever deny that). I watched and followed my favorite team step by step while I was making my own journey with the Millers.
It was in 5th grade when our class of 2007 began our own Miller journey. We competed in tournaments and camps all across the state. Super Hoops wasn’t just some game, it was my life for four years and I wouldn’t have traded that time for anything in the world. And during that time, Coach Mac would watch from a far and chime in when we needed it.
It wasn’t until the Depauw team camps that I finally got the chance to play for Coach Mac, and I didn’t exactly make the best first impression.
We were playing some scrub team that we had no business losing to and I started getting frustrated. We were upping the tempo against our opponent and I was playing harder than ever when I got into the game on the press defense.
That was when I was called for a ticky tack foul. I grabbed the ball and slammed it down in frustration. I was quickly T’d up and found myself on the bench. Not the best way to start off my career with the Head Coach.
But as I walked to the bench, I will never forget the words Coach Mac said to me.
He called me back over as I tried to escape, and of course I was fearing the worst. Here’s some little kid that lost his temper on the court and can’t handle himself and he’s about to get the tongue-lashing of a lifetime…or so I thought.
“Hey Donoho, if you played with that same emotion all the time without losing your cool, you could be one heck of a player.”
That was all the motivation I needed to fight even harder to make it to his team every chance I got.
I was never the most athletic or gifted player that played for the Millers. I wish I could jump higher than 2 phone books stacked on top of each other, but the good Lord didn’t bless me with any semblance of ‘hops’.
I had to fight and claw my way in the pecking order. The reason why I continued to fight for my dream was that motivation and drive that Mac gave me that one game at Depauw.
The dream finally became reality my sophomore season when I dressed my first game for Coach Mac and the varsity team. Home game against Westfield. I got the chance to sit the bench and run through the banner. Never will I ever forget that game and that moment.
(Off-topic story: during the summer of my sophomore year, I decided to ‘dress up’ when I coached up the kids during our team camps. I ran to the bathroom and changed out of my shorts and shirt during a break. I came back out wearing khaki shorts, tucked in shirt, whistle around my neck, and paper tucked into my shorts implying I had a practice plan…somewhat trying to emulate what the coaches looked like. That completely backfired when Coach Mac saw me and didn’t take too kindly to being imitated. I ran back and changed quickly. Crisis averted, I was an idiot. Luckily, I didn’t have to run or do extra sprints.)
(I hadn’t told that story in years, but it felt good to get that off my chest.)
Those first two years in high school playing for Coach Mac were some of the hardest, most difficult years I’ve ever faced as not only an athlete but as a person. It was demanding, it was grinding, it was emotionally draining. Whenever I’m forced to wake up at 6am for work now, it always brings me back to those times during the summer when we lifted and worked out early in the day before camps.
But that’s what made us the MILLERS. Opponents hated playing us because we were tougher than they were. We dove on the floor for loose balls, we played with relentless energy and effort for 32 minutes every game. The way we played, that was Coach Mac’s vision: giving 100% every time you stepped on the floor.
It was not easy by any means playing high school basketball for Coach Mac, but it made me tough. It got me ready for the battles ahead on the basketball court. Funny thing is…all of those sprints, all the rebounding and diving on the floor drills, all the extra hours putting up shots, it got me ready for the battles of life.
Coach Mac was the reason for all of that. He pushed me to be the best PLAYER that I could be and in the process it pushed me to be the hardest-working PERSON I could be.
I can say without a doubt I wouldn’t be where I am today without Coach Mac’s guidance and coaching. I became a man during those years playing for him, and if it wasn’t for me sticking it out in the tough times I wouldn’t have had the toughness or the mental fortitude to do what I do today.
I’m extremely grateful that Coach Mac always had an amazing staff of assistant coaches who led us: Scott Radeker, Kurt Gassensmith, Ryan Bales, Jeff Bryant, Rich Conley, Mouch Mills, Brad Coverdale, Tim Fox, Ryan Murray, and anyone else I may have forgotten…They were all instrumental in helping build the Miller Boys basketball program and helping build us into the men we are today.
There are many of you who could say the exact same thing: I wouldn’t be where I am today without Coach Mac. Whether you played for him, knew him, interacted with him…in one way or another Coach Mac made an impact on your life.
308-138. His Noblesville teams won nearly 70% of the time he stepped on the floor as head coach of the Millers. Quite remarkable, but the number of victories doesn’t even come close to the number lives that he’s touched during his time as head coach of the Millers…one of those being my own life.
Yeah, I still remember how to do ‘daily dozen’ and I never want to be put through ‘Guts’ ever again. I can do Utah 1-5 in my sleep and I’ve never forgotten white, black, red, or green tight (which was my favorite because I ran the baseline).
But why do I remember all of those things? It’s been over 7 years since the last time I ran a ‘Miller’ or was put through 2 on 2 box-out.
It’s not because of how often we did them and how they’re forever etched into our mind, it’s HOW we did them. Relentless effort and energy, never giving an inch. Those lifestyles have been instilled in all of us who have been fortunate enough to have Coach Mac be more than just a coach for us.
I remember the high school graduation card I received from him back in 2007. I still carry it with me to this day.
I didn’t play for Mac my senior year and I began getting more involved in broadcasting and PA announcing during my final year at NHS. But he still managed to leave me smiling, and I went back to what he said all those years ago to me at Depauw. Turns out, I did play with that emotion he talked about…just in a different way.
The card read: “We missed you out on the court this past season but you have definitely found your calling and your emotion behind the mic. Best of luck, Coach Mac.”
In a funny way, I still felt as if he was motivating me and coaching me with that card. I didn’t want to fail him, and I didn’t want to let him down after all of the time and effort he spent on me.
I can’t help but call him ‘coach’ whenever I run into him back home. I probably should have called him Mr. McCollough a long time after my high school graduation, but I never did.
He’ll always be my coach, and yet he’s so much more than just a coach. He’s a leader of young boys who became men. He’s a builder of men.
That right there goes far beyond the wins and losses, the trophies and championships. That, is a lasting legacy that everyone from Noblesville will never forget.