INDEPENDENCE — When Julie McDonald resigned after 11 years total as head basketball coach at Central High School, the biggest question people wanted to know was: Why?
“I have a lot of people ask me that, and they want some big, grand juicy answer, and I don’t have one,” McDonald said. “I have a pretty simple one of, I was ready to be done.
“I had great support from everyone, top down. From administrators to school board, parents, kids; some people say, well if you had it all, why didn’t you keep going, and I just, it’s not that I have anything planned and I don’t plan to pursue coaching, a head position, I just want to enjoy my time. My free time.”
Choosing to step down as head coach was a decision McDonald put a lot of thought into, and it wasn’t an easy one to make.
“I had been contemplating it before Christmas, so before we went to Arizona (for the Nike Tournament of Champions). I just kind of started thinking about it ... the season had just kind of started,” she said. “It took me awhile to officially say, like I knew, but having the words come out of my mouth, it’s more permanent. I told Ryan (O’Malley, CHS Athletic Director) a week and a half before the Crater (playoff) game. I wanted to make sure it didn’t get it out, because I’m close with a lot of the girls and I knew they’d want to hear it from me.”
She broke the news to the team after they lost their first playoff game at Crater High School on March 2.
“We had a little sad session,” McDonald said, “and then it was over, and we got on the bus at Crater, and, (they said) ‘coach will you come sit with me?’”
The head basketball coach position is officially open now at CHS, and McDonald said she wants to be involved in the process of who they hire next.
“I still feel like I need to look after the girls and I want the best for them,” she said.
The kids are what kept her coming back year after year.
“You know, you come to practice on Monday and, (they say) ‘coach I missed you this weekend,’ and it’s like, really, I’ve been yelling at you all last week and, really,” she said, laughing.
“I think the competition side of it, too,” she said. “Basketball has always been a passion of mine; I’ve always played it since third grade.”
McDonald played basketball at CHS and her team went to state all four years she was there, and won the championship her senior year. In college, she played for Western Oregon University, where the Wolves won the national championship her junior and senior years.
“I never left the community,” she said, smiling.
She may not be the head coach anymore, but McDonald said she’ll still stay involved with the girls.
“I’ll go watch their games, they still text me. I’m still involved with them, I’ll just have a lot more time,” she said.
She also said she will be putting together the team’s summer league schedule so it’s all ready to go for the new coach when he or she is hired.
“Coaching, you have to be passionate about it,” she said, “but it’s hard. And I was lucky that I had such a great support, because I couldn’t imagine doing it if you don’t. You know, you’re not perfect, but if you’re up front with the kids and they respect you, and you communicate with them, it makes it a lot smoother, and that’s been my philosophy and it worked for me.”
She said she can’t take all the credit.
“I’ve had good coaches,” she said. “I only went through one coaching change (in 11 years) because he moved. It’s a big part of the program, is having coaches stay and not in and out for two years. My assistant coach, coach Kerry, he’s a blessing, just the time and effort and energy he put into it.”
Of all the years and memories she’s created with the team, McDonald said this year was a highlight.
“I was proud of them, and we look back at our Arizona trip, and it was successful,” she said, “and I think if it wasn’t successful it would have been a good time for them. This was one of my most memorable seasons, and we didn’t do as well as we should have. I don’t think we under achieved with our circumstances, but I had the most fun, and then, I’m still retiring.”
Now the question is, what will she do with all of her free time?
“I don’t know. Just, do whatever I want,” she said. “Basketball is a long season; you’re starting in November and you’re not done until March, and you’re already doing summer league schedule, and its not even the end of March.”
Will she miss it?
“I’m sure I will, but I’m sure I won’t miss the preparation,” she said. “I may miss standing on the sideline ... but I don’t know, we’ll have to see. I’m sure I will. I’ve been coaching and playing all my life, so it will be different. But I hope we find someone good who comes in who is good to the girls. And I think it will be interesting too, to see someone else come in and see how these girls play under a different coach, under a different scheme and strategy. They have all my help and support.”