NOTE: This is the first of a ten-part series, published exclusively in the Jackson Parish Journal, that celebrates the achievements of the six athletes and three Special Award winners that will be inducted into the Jackson Parish Sports Hall of Fame on August 7th. This week: Dan McDonald
Enshrined in the Louisiana Sports Hall of Fame as a 2017 recipient of the Distinguished Service Award in Sports Journalism from the Louisiana Sports Writers Association, Jonesboro native Dan McDonald is better remembered locally as the original “Doc’s Disciple.” Soon he will be able to add being inducted to the Jackson Parish Sports Hall of Fame to his incredibly impressive resume of achievements, acclaims and accreditations.
McDonald’s multi-faceted and distinguished career took root when he was still in high school working at the now defunct Jackson Independent and local radio station KTOC-AM in Jonesboro. It was there that he came under the tutelage of local sports journalism legend, Raymond “Doc” Jeffries, who mentored McDonald in not only in the basics of journalism and broadcasting, but also game scoring, public address announcing and posting individual and team statistics.
Jeffries was not the only “Doc” that McDonald was a disciple of during his high school days. There was also Jonesboro-Hodge High School boys basketball coach Dalton “Doc” Robinson, who McDonald assisted as team statistician. Just prior to his death in 2018, Robinson relayed the account of how McDonald’s brilliance and innovative thinking was the catalyst in JHHS winning one of the most improbable district championships in school history.
(Reprint from 2018 interview) “It was my first year as a head basketball coach,” said Robinson, also a Jackson Parish Sports Hall of Fame member. “After our first ten games we were 1-9 and I was really struggling with what I could do to change it around. Truthfully I was at wits end when Dan came up to me after practice one day and said he had something to show me.”
“What he had done on his own was take several sheets of paper and draw a basketball court on each one. He had one for each of our starters and top reserves. During the games, on each page he had marked with an X on the court likeness where a certain player made a shot and put an O where they missed. I quickly saw a pattern where everyone of our players seemed to always make the shot he took from one certain place and always miss from most others.”
The next day in practice I walked each one to a spot on the floor and told them this is the only spot you are to shoot from. We went 9-1 the rest of the way and won district. What Dan had done is come up with the first “shot chart” that I had ever heard of but something now every coach relies on. I will always be grateful to him for making me look like I knew what I was doing.”
After graduating from Jonesboro-Hodge High School in 1972, McDonald went on to study at Northwestern State. He honed his craft working as a student assistant, writing and editing for the student newspaper, The Current Sauce, and helping launch NSU’s first radio station, KNSU, now known as KNWD. When iconic musician Jim Croce perished in a plane crash after a concert on campus, McDonald’s coverage was picked up by Rolling Stone, among others.
After graduating from NSU in three years, McDonald joined the sports department at the Alexandria Town Talk in 1975 and worked under legendary sports editor Bill Carter. His time in Alexandria was short-lived, as after a year his alma mater came calling, making him at the tender age of 21 the youngest Sports Information Director at any Division I program.
McDonald left NSU or Northwestern in the summer of 1980 for the same position at USL or , now known as the University of Louisiana. He remained there until 1999, winning numerous awards for his brochures, fact sheets and, of course, writing. During his two-decade tenure at USL, McDonald also served as a member of the U.S. Olympic Committee media relations staff for two summer games (Seoul in 1988, Atlanta in 1996), and six U.S. Olympic Festivals. In 2011, he was inducted into the CoSIDA Hall of Fame.
McDonald eventually retired from the SID world in 1999, but he had no intentions of slowing down.
His next venture was to join the sports department of The (Lafayette) Daily Advertiser. There he captured 31 LSWA writing awards in his nine years at the paper, including three “Writer of the Year” honors in a five-year span. He also received a national “Best of Gannett” award for his coverage of the 2005 Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
McDonald left The Daily Advertiser in 2008 for yet another venture opportunity and became vice-president of McD Media, Inc., a marketing and public relations firm founded by his wife, Mary Beth. In addition to his role with McD Media, McDonald works as a freelance sports journalist, including earning his fourth LSWA Sports Writer of the Year honor in 2011, and doing extensive broadcast and television work, including anchoring annual webcasts of Sun Belt Conference baseball, softball and golf tournaments.
In addition, McDonald has served as media relations director for the Web.com Tour’s Chitimacha Louisiana open, chairman of the Bill Bass Open fundraiser tournament for the ULL golf team, co-chairman for LHSAA state high school golf tournaments held in Acadiana, served as vice president and president of the LSWA, and remains a key member of both the LSWA Executive Committee and Hall of Fame Committee.
In 1999, McDonald received the LSWA’s esteemed Mac Russo Award, which is highest honor that can be bestowed on a Louisiana Sports Writer. This award was also bestowed on his wife Mary Beth in 2015. As a testament to the character of Dan, he was overheard saying he was prouder of her winning the award than when he won his own. Even as a youngster at JHHS, McDonald was always known to be supportive of those on his team and worked hard to make them better. The result was that he became the best!