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Back to being a Miner: Mike O’Donnell named girls basketball coach at Negaunee High School

Negaunee boys basketball coach Mike O’Donnell, center, and the Negaunee bench watch in the closing minutes of their 69-54 loss to Detroit Consortium in their MHSAA Class C semifinal game played in March 2014 in East Lansing. (Journal file photo)

“I’ve been fortunate to work for the district in the past and know first-hand the great support you get.” — Mike O’Donnell, new head coach, Negaunee girls basketball

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NEGAUNEE — Mike O’Donnell has been hired as head coach of the Negaunee High School varsity girls basketball program, the school announced Monday morning.

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because O’Donnell led the Miners boys for nine seasons from 2005-14 with a vast amount of success.

Under his watch, the Negaunee boys compiled a record of 180-48 while he led the Miners to six Mid-Peninsula Conference titles, eight district tournament titles, six regional tournament titles and three trips to the MHSAA Class C state semifinals.

Negaunee boys basketball head coach Mike O'Donnell, center background, yells out to player Tony Jandron during a Class C district tournament game against Ishpeming at the Hematites gym in March 2006. (Journal file photo)

He was also named Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Class ABC Coach of the Year three times.

O’Donnell left as Negaunee’s boys coach in 2014 to fulfill his dream of coaching basketball at the collegiate level. He was hired in April of that year as the men’s coach at his alma mater, Finlandia University in Hancock.

The Negaunee girls position opened up after former head coach Brandon Sager stepped down earlier this month to accept an assistant coaching position with the Northern Michigan University women’s program.

O’Donnell, who was also a teacher in the Negaunee school district, saw the opportunity as one that would best fit his and his family’s interests, according to a statement from O’Donnell sent to The Mining Journal on Monday afternoon.

“I’m excited for this opportunity and to be back in Negaunee,” he said. “A unique opportunity came up fast and unexpectedly. My family and I decided it was in our best interest to move back to the area.

Mike O'Donnell While at Finlandia University

“I’ve been fortunate to work for the district in the past and know first-hand the great support you get not only from the community but also the administration.

“I’m looking forward to working with the girls basketball program to continue building upon the success and prestige Coach Sager and other former coaches have built up.”

O’Donnell also stated that the decision was by no means an easy one, as it never is leaving any coaching position.

“It was a tough decision, knowing I’m leaving behind 15 young men who had committed to play for me isn’t an easy thing to do,” he said. “Ultimately they understood and realize they’ll have a quality coach in place soon.

“I enjoyed my time at Finlandia. I was able to work with some great people at the university. I had the pleasure of coaching a lot of great young men. I also had the chance to meet other great coaches and learned a lot while getting to see some really good basketball and neat venues at the (NCAA) Division III level. It was a fun experience and something I feel fortunate to have had the opportunity to do.”

In five seasons at Finlandia, O’Donnell compiled a record of 31-105. He produced five All-Association of Division III Independents awards, as well as three All-American Collegiate Athletic Association selections.

O’Donnell graduated from Finlandia in 2004, playing for the Lions for all four years. In his time as a player, he was the first in school history to join the 1,000-point club, and now sits fourth all-time in that category.

He was named tournament MVP after leading the Lions to the National Small College Association Division I national championship in the 2000-01 season, and holds the school record for free throws attempted and rebounds in a single season. O’Donnell is in the top five in 11 career categories, including the all-time school leader in free throws made, free throws attempted, minutes played and rebounds.

O’Donnell is also a Negaunee alumnus, graduating in 1999. He was a multi-sport athlete for the Miners, playing basketball and football. He was a two-time All-M-PC selection and All-U.P. selection in both sports.

During his sophomore season, he was on the Miners basketball team that advanced to the Class C state quarterfinals, finishing with a 22-2 record. Negaunee was the U.P. Class C Team of the Year that season.

Email Ryan Spitza at sports@miningjournal.net.