By Rick Pedone
Memorial services for Tim McMullen – “Coach Mac” – have been set for May 20 at 2 p.m. at the St. Cloud High gym.
Doors open at 1 p.m.
McMullen, a coaching icon for 33 years at St. Cloud High, died of an apparent heart attack Tuesday afternoon at the high school.
According to faculty members, McMullen, 60, was returning to his office in the gym lobby when he passed out on the floor.
Several minutes passed before he was discovered by the school’s girls basketball and tennis coach, Chad Ansbaugh, who tried to revive McMullen with an emergency CPR device stored in the gym.
“I think he was gone (when Ansbaugh discovered him),” Ansbaugh said. “You could tell that it was a heart attack.”
Paramedics arrived but were unsuccessful in attempting to revive the long-time coach.
“I don’t think that there was anything anyone could do,” Ansbaugh said.
Dana Schafer, the school district public information officer, said that McMullen was transported from the high school and declared deceased at a local hospital.
“He was a beloved teacher and basketball coach for the district since 1984. He will be greatly missed, and our hearts and thoughts are with his family,” she said.
Ansbaugh, a PE instructor like McMullen, said that he had several conversations with McMullen Tuesday and everything seemed normal.
McMullen seemed healthy and in good humor at the high school’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony Friday, when he presented one of his former basketball players, Tim Gatz, for induction.
Ansbaugh, who coached the tennis teams with McMullen for several years, said that the good-humored coach had a good time at the ceremony.
“He was having a ball,” Ansbaugh said. “The funny thing was, he thanked all of us that night. It was almost like he was saying goodbye to us.”
St. Cloud girls weightlifting coach Lonnie Beckel said the same about McMullen’s appearance at the Hall of Fame event.
“He was in great spirits, he was having a great time,” said Beckel.
The news came as a shock to students and faculty members alike.
McMullen, over the course of his long career at the high school, coached boys and girls basketball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls tennis and boys and girls track.
His teams won more than three dozen Orange Belt Conference championships (not even he knew the exact number). He was named the M. Dean Cherry Award winner as Osceola County’s Coach of the Year in 2005.
Early in his high school coaching career he won a reputation as a fiery and vocal leader whose booming voice could be heard in gyms around Central Florida as he prodded his teams, nicknamed the “Scrappy Dogs.”
Later in his career, he became a more restrained voice of reason on the sidelines and he seemed satisfied with that coaching method.
McMullen picked up tennis late in his career and began coaching that sport with long-time St. Cloud tennis coach Dallas Kelsey, who passed away two years ago.
McMullen stepped down as the school’s tennis coach prior to this season.
Ansbaugh said that McMullen almost joined his girls basketball staff prior to last season, but he had second thoughts.
“He was a mentor to us young coaches, like (former St.Cloud athletic director) Mike (Fields) was. We’d probably go to Mike more for life stuff, where with Mac it was a lot of Xs and Os stuff,” said Ansbaugh, who was a student in McMullen’s biology class in the 1990s.
“Yeah, I heard a lot from him in class,” Ansbaugh said with a laugh.
McMullen coached both of his sons, Eddie Avant and Travis McMullen, and his daughter, Jessica McMullen, during their high school basketball careers. Avant held the state record for the most successful 3-point shots in a season when he graduated from the high school.
McMullen and his wife, Polly, were devastated when Jessica, a talented young player known for playing gritty defense, died in a traffic accident in 2004, just prior to her junior year at St. Cloud High.
Tim McMullen made a daily ritual of visiting his daughter’s grave.
McMullen began his St. Cloud High coaching career in 1984, after a stint as the University of Central Florida’s women’s basketball coach.
His Top Gun Basketball Shooting Camp, established in 1985, is the county’s longest-running high school summer camp and it annually draws close to 100 participants. Most of the county’s all-time high school leading scorers attended the camp. Ansbaugh took over many of the responsibilities for running the camp in recent years.
Regardless of what sport he was coaching, McMullen’s goal always was to bring out the best in his players, on and off the court, Ansbaugh said. Dozens of his former players won scholarships, and several became coaches alongside him, including current St. Cloud cross country and track coach Kevin Harkema.
“I was talking with Kevin about that just the other day, about how these coaches put everything they have into their schools for all of those years,” Ansbaugh said. “Nobody knows all the time and effort they put in. With Coach Mac, it just seems like he’s always been here.”
This story will be updated as new facts become available.