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McDougall, Clippers to enter Hall of Fame

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A longtime coach of Dauphin Clippers basketball will be inducted into Basketball Manitoba’s Hall of Fame in September.
The late Larry McDougall, who died two years ago, will be inducted in the Builders’ category after a 32-year coaching career with the Dauphin Clippers. He coached the varsity boys team to three provincial titles in 1975, 1976 and 1980 and guided the varsity girls to a second-place finish at provincials in 1984 and a provincial crown in 1987.
McDougall was known for his patience and for building relationships with his players, which set him aside from many of his peers.
McDougall’s wife June, said the family is pleased and excited about the upcoming induction. She remembers a lot of weekends when he was away, as well as many late practices.
“We also feel that he had an impact on the boys on the court, but also in their personal lives,” she said, adding it is an honour that is long overdue.
“He put in over 32 years of basketball coaching and he loved every minite of it. He loved playing against the other coaches with the strategies. It was a real big part of his life.”
The years when the Clippers won provincials were stressful, June recalls.
“They had strong, strong competititon. And this was before they divided into A, B and C groups. They went straight to Winnipeg to play teams. It wasn’t just farm teams. It was the top teams,” she said.
The three Clippers boys teams McDougall led to provincial championships will also be inducted into the Hall of Fame in the team category.
Greg Southam, who was the lone Grade 11 student on the 1976 provincial championship squad, was the person who nominated McDougall. He noted there were six or seven players who played on both the 1975 and 1976 teams, so the Clippers did not face much of a challenge the year Southam, a self-confessed bench warmer, played.
“In our division, there was just no competition. We walked over teams by a lot. It was quite remarkable because we just didn’t lose very often,” he said.
Southam, who lives in Edmonton, remembers a tournament in Brandon at the start of the year where they faced some bigger teams.
“I’m guessing we probably got beaten there, but throughout most of the season, we didn’t,” he said.
In Dauphin’s first game at provincials, the Clippers trailed Winkler for most of the game.
“With about two minutes left, we were down by about eight or nine points. But we came back and, obviously, won that game. And it was just so exciting, because before going to provincials, we had worked on this full-court press. And we had two guys that were extremely good at it and they just pressed these guys. (Winkler) couldn’t do anything against it. They were just totally surprised because they had dominated us the whole game and then all of a sudden, we just turned it on,” he said.
Within that final two-minute stretch, the Clippers repeatedly stole the ball and went down court to score, eventually coming away with the win.
“I was on the bench, so I sat and watched the whole thing. But it was very exciting to watch. It was a pretty fairy-tale-like season for a guy that just made the senior team and got to play with all the guys that you sort of idolized from the sidelines the years before. So for me it was very exciting,” he said.
Southam did not remember the Clippers being under any pressure to repeat as provincial champs.
“I don’t even remember us thinking that we were going to win another championship,” he said.
McDougall’s patience was tested the following year. Most of the players from the championship teams had graduated and, in 1977, the boys team consisted of some players who had never played basketball before. One player, Southam said, did not even know which basket to shoot at in the first tournament of the year in Brandon.
“That was the kind of team that, all of a sudden Mr. McDougall had to coach the following year. Some of them had never touched a basketball. That, to me, was the real shocker. You went from a team of guys that were some of the best in the province to guys that had never touched a basketball,” he said.
The result was teams the Clippers beat by lopsided scores the year before got their revenge and routed the Clippers. It was worth it, though. In 1978, under McDougall’s guidance, the Clippers returned to provincials, where they finished third.
“The fact that he took this team of guys that didn’t know much about basketball back to provincials again was, in my mind, pretty remarkable. He did a very good job of coaching a very inexperienced team way beyond where we should have been able to play. He was a very patient man, fortunately, because I’m sure he must have been tested that year,” Southam said.
Southam added McDougall was smart enough to let the players just play the game after establishing systems and schemes for them to execute.
“He wasn’t the kind of coach that was up and screaming and yelling. I remember Duane Whyte once said, ‘the only time you could tell if Mr. McDougall got excited was if he stood up.’ Even then, he wasn’t like a Bobby Knight, a guy that would be throwing chairs. He would just stand up and then you knew he was probably irritated at something,” Southam said.
“But you just knew that he was going to have your back if something happened. But he wouldn’t do it in a demonstrative way. It was very subtle and if you did something wrong, he would talk to you, but always very calmly.”
Southam keeps in touch with his former teammates and arranged for a reunion two years ago, which featured a game at the DRCSS. One commonality he found was when McDougall’s former players became coaches themselves, they tried to emulate his coaching style.
“What I remember about Mr. McDougall is the way he coached. And this is how I tried to coach my kids. I remembered how he coached us and that’s what I practice now when I’m coaching my kids,” he said.
“What you have to be aware of is what people’s abilities are. And if they’re not great, then you just work quietly and smoothly by directing them in a certain way. You don’t yell and scream at kids, because that doesn’t really help. And he proved that over and over again.”
Southam admits the Hall of Fame announcement is somewhat bittersweet and wishes he had taken the initiative to nominate McDougall when he was still alive.
“But on the other hand, I think it’s fantastic that he’s going to be recognized as a leader in basketball in the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s,” he said.
When putting together the nomination letter for McDougall, Southam knew the Clippers championship teams were qualified to enter the Hall of Fame, as well, but he did not nominate any of them, because he did not want to diminish the chances of McDougall’s selection.
“But when they looked at it, the selection committee realized that our teams qualified for it, as well. I think it’s nice that we’re going to be recognized, too, for having great teams in Dauphin at that time. But I really think the key to it all is Mr. McDougall,” Southam said.
“I think that, because of him, those teams are being inducted, as well. So I’m excited because I know I’m going to get a chance to see a bunch of guys that I haven’t seen in a long time. But I’m more excited about Mr. McDougall being recognized, because he’s really responsible for these teams getting the recognition, too.”
Jamie Simpson, who also lives in Edmonton, played on both the early championship teams. He remembers the team being balanced, with players excelling in different aspects of the game.
“But we all knew our roles. And that was probably the best thing. We just knew what each other could do or contribute to. Some of us played together since we were in Grade 10, so we knew each other very well by that time. And, in the first year between the Grade 12 players and the Grade 11 junior players, there was a really good blend. We were a more senior team the next year, more veteran guys,” he said.
Simpson said it is a little surprising to be entering the Hall of Fame. He and Southam still play together in Edmonton, so Simpson knew Southam was trying to get McDougall inducted.
“And then I believe it was the folks at the Basketball Hall of Fame that started to pay attention and look at the record and look at the teams. And that just spawned out of Greg doing a lot of the leg work to get Larry acknowledged,” he said.
“It’s a surprising honour.”
Entering the Hall of Fame with McDougall will make the induction that much more special.
“I think it’s a really nice package of the teams and the coach. It’s probably the way it had to be done for something like this, for a rural coach to get acknowledged,” Simpson said.
McDougall was a low-profile man, Simpson said. The Clippers had a lot of characters on the team and he could manage the different personalities and egos well.
“He did know how to utilize his players. Keep the ones calm, ramp the other ones up. And he supported the guys off the floor if they had some personal things going. But he was very low-key,” he said.
Dwane Fidierchuk, who works for the RM of Dauphin, was a member of the 1980 championship team. It was a tight-knit group, he said. Not only did they play basketball together, but they were all friends off the court, hanging around together for about 2-1/2 years.
“So it was really close-knit. I’m very familiar with most of the players on the team,” he said.
Overall, the Clippers did not have a tall team. Brian Smith was the team’s star player.
“He was six-five and he was our center. We had a few other players that were fairly tall, but most of our team revolved around the quickness of our guards,” Fidierchuk said.
“Larry taught a three-guard system and that’s what we all went through high school learning. In this case, our team really fit his system, because we had five or six guards that could play out of the three positions. So even when we substituted in the second line, we still had a pretty potent and pretty skilled lineup.”
The Clippers’ personnel fit McDougall’s system and he made it work, which was a key to the team’s success.
Fidierchuk remembers the excitement of winning provincials. Everything seems like a blurr, he said, up until the moment the final buzzer sounded.
“It was quite amazing. The enthusiasm and the joy that you feel when you accomplish something like that. It was quite an honour to play on this team, for sure. It was quite a highlight of my life. Even since then, it is still something I remember quite vividly,” he said, adding it is an honour to be inducted with McDougall.
The induction ceremony will be held, Sept. 28, in Winnipeg.

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Doug Zywina
REPORTER
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