Glen Donahue, second winningest college basketball coach in Michigan history, dies at 85

Glen Donahue always viewed coaching college basketball as a “win-win” situation during the lengthy period of time he spent as the state of Michigan’s all-time leader in victories.

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But on Friday, the final buzzer sounded on his illustrious life, as he died peacefully at his Southfield home after suffering from dementia. He was 85.

Donahue, who now ranks second behind Rochester College’s Garth Pleasant (720 wins in 38 seasons) in all-time wins, held a career coaching record of 656-451 at the collegiate level. Oakland University’s Greg Kampe is third on the list with a 632-474 mark. 

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“With almost 60 years of coaching, there’s tons of wins and tons of great seasons, but the thing that is overwhelming is the relationships,” said his son Kevin Donahue, who played for his father at Highland Park Community College. “To a person, they all talk about the opportunities that they got, how much they learned and how they grew as people and how much ‘Coach’ influenced the course of their lives.”

a man wearing a suit and tie: Late Kirtland Community College coach Glen Donahue, who died Oct. 30, 2020, at his home in Southfield.

© Detroit Free Press archives
Late Kirtland Community College coach Glen Donahue, who died Oct. 30, 2020, at his home in Southfield.

At the collegiate level, Donahue’s best years came at Highland Park Community College where he spent 19 seasons and won 301 games.

His 1984-85 Highland Park team finished 40-2 and featured Vernon Carr (Michigan State), Lenith Cotton and Robert Alexander.

Highland Park started out that season with 38 straight wins and was ranked No. 1 in the country before losing at the buzzer in the NJCAA National Tournament to Moberly Area Community College (Mo.), which was led by NBA All-Star Mitch Richmond and coached by current Oregon coach Dana Altman.

Donahue also had head coaching stints at Kirtland and Schoolcraft community colleges, as well as St. Mary’s (winning 114 games) and Marygrove colleges.

Donahue also served as an assistant coach at Central Michigan University and at his alma mater, the University of Detroit (under Don Sicko), where he ran track and graduated in 1958.

“Glen meant a lot of things to a lot of people, and he certainly was one of those people to me,” said Denny Butcher, who coached a 28 high school seasons and played for Donahue at St. Mary’s College. “I was one of the first players that he coached for four years because he was a junior college coach for a very long time at Highland Park. The amount of experience I learned from him as a player was enormous. I spent five years with him (four as a player and one as an assistant coach) and he helped mold me and a lot of my thoughts for basketball. He was one of the best preparers of the game and practice planners.”

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