Richard Douglas Donahue, age 79, known to a few as “Richard” and many as “Dick” or “Coach,” passed away from natural causes on July 17, 2023, at his Phoenix home.
Dick is survived by his sister, Pat (Barbara) Donahue, of Oroville, CA, and Trish Milam of Rancho Cordova, CA, his deceased brother’s stepdaughter. His parents, Joseph R. and Virginia A. (Grimm) Donahue of Bancroft, IA, and Phoenix, and his brother, Joseph M. Donahue, of San Antonio, predeceased him.
Dick was born August 22, 1943, in San Diego, where his dad was stationed as a Marine. After his dad’s discharge, the family returned to Bancroft (population 991) where his dad owned a gas station and gave Dick and his friends part-time jobs. He graduated from Bancroft St. John High School in 1961. A talented athlete, he was a pitcher and infielder on four Iowa high school championship baseball teams, two state runner-up teams, and three American Legion state championship teams. His pitching record was 39-5 during his last two years of high school and 18-1 in Legion ball. He gave up less than one earned run per game. In 1959, the Des Moines Register named Dick its “Prep of the Week” after the high school junior pitched a no-hitter against the defending state champions. The Register’s reporter wrote that, “Bancroft St. John’s winning right-hander, Dick Donahue, scales in at 110 on a 5-foot, 2-inch frame” and explained that “pin-point accuracy” was a key to his pitching success. The reporter noted that Dick also lettered in basketball, was an accomplished bowler, played in St. John’s school band, and was an altar boy.
The family moved to the Maryvale area of Phoenix where Dick attended Phoenix College and graduated from Grand Canyon College in 1966 with a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education. He played baseball at both schools and was a member of Phoenix College’s 1962 junior college national championship team.
After graduation, Dick taught physical education at Manzanita Grade School from 1966 to 1995. He also coached Manzanita’s basketball team for 17 years (1966-83). His win-loss record was 315-146, but more importantly he endeared himself to his players. “It doesn’t cost anything to believe in yourself,” he would tell them, and “It doesn’t take talent to be on time, ‘bust it’ in practice, encourage your teammates, and do the job coach gives you.” Dick’s mom bought basketball shoes and paid summer basketball camp tuitions for many of his players.
In 1984, Dick joined Dave Lopez’s staff at Apollo High School. He assisted Coach Lopez with the boys teams (The Hawks were undefeated during the 1987-88 regular season and state runner-up in 1988-89.) while also coaching the girls junior varsity and boys freshmen teams. In 1989, he started a 10-year tenure as the girls varsity head coach. His teams had an overall record of 169-102 and seven were ranked in the Arizona top 10. After Apollo, he coached the Arcadia High School girls team for seven seasons (100-92 record), followed by three years at Desert Mountain High School (51-44). His overall record in 20 years as a head coach was 320-238, one of the best among Arizona girls high school coaches. He was Arizona Coach of the Year in 1999 and Region Coach of the Year seven times.
Dick also coached girls club basketball and helped many players develop into successful college players at schools such as Grand Canyon, Utah State, Wichita State, Fresno State, Sacred Heart, Oregon State, Colorado State Pueblo, Eastern New Mexico, Weber State, Mesa Community College, and Yavapai College. One former player, who later was an assistant college coach, said, “Basketball can be complicated, but Coach Donahue made it simple. He gave us a few rules and then turned us loose to play. His confidence in us empowered us.”
Throughout his coaching career, Dick excelled at developing good human beings. His players are now successfully involved in their own careers, including teaching, coaching, practicing medicine and law, writing, politics, and raising their own children.
In his younger years, Dick played in softball leagues and toured Phoenix playgrounds playing 3-on-3 pick-up basketball games. One friend, who played in the pick-up games with him, said, “No one was allowed to shoot, except Dick. And we were OK with that because he just didn’t miss.” Later in life, he played golf regularly and at times played it quite well. He enjoyed “Rocc’s” Monday morning golf group at San Marcos. A loyal fan of Arizona State athletics, he had baseball season tickets for 50 seasons, starting in 1974, and at times had season tickets for ASU’s women’s basketball, men’s basketball, and football teams. He traveled this spring to Starkville, MS, to watch the ASU baseball team play Mississippi State and visit Coach Ron Polk, his Grand Canyon teammate and a legendary Mississippi State coach. His favorite activity was maintaining relationships with his sister Pat and his many friends, including former players, high school and college teammates, fellow teachers and coaches, and golf buddies. He visited Pat in March 2023 and often sent her gifts. He was Pat’s Number One “big brother.”
In the end, Dick’s life was a life well-lived. He made an indelible, positive mark on many as a brother, teacher, coach, teammate, and friend.
A celebration of life is being planned for later this year. Please RSVP your interest along with your contact information to 4CoachDonahue@gmail.com. Condolences can also be sent to the same email address and will be forwarded to Pat. Also, please consider a donation in Dick’s name to a charity that supports the well-being of children.