St. Cloud dedicates new gym floor to Coach Mac

  • NEWS-GAZETTE PHOTO/ROB HERBERT On Monday, St. Cloud High School officially renamed and dedicated the newly refurbished basketball floor at St. Cloud Gymnasium as the “Coach Mac Court” prior to a girls varsity basketball game.
    NEWS-GAZETTE PHOTO/ROB HERBERT On Monday, St. Cloud High School officially renamed and dedicated the newly refurbished basketball floor at St. Cloud Gymnasium as the “Coach Mac Court” prior to a girls varsity basketball game.
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ST. CLOUD HIGH SCHOOL

Up until his sudden and unexpected passing in 2017, Tim McMullen coached, counseled and advised both coaches and players at St. Cloud High School for more than three decades.

Perhaps it is only fitting that from now on Bulldog basketball players and coaches will now participate on a court named in his honor.

On Monday, the administration officially renamed and dedicated the newly refurbished basketball floor at St. Cloud Gymnasium as the “Coach Mac Court” prior to a girls varsity basketball game.

“For decades, Coach Mac dedicated himself to coaching and mentoring all St. Cloud athletes and also provided guidance to the staffs of all our sports, particularly our young coaches,” St. Cloud Athletic Director Eric Godfrey said. “It is only fitting that we honor him and his memory in the manner. The lessons he instilled in his athletes remained with them through a lifetime and that is the true measure of a great teacher and coach.”

Current girls basketball coach Chad Ansbaugh said the idea of redoing the floor came about before McMullen’s passing.

“It was our dream to get a new floor put in and it kept getting scrapped and pushed back because of budgetary reasons. Unfortunately, he passed before it could become a reality. He always told his players, ‘Let’s hit the floor,’ so naming the floor after him was a no-brainer.”

After raising the more than $20,000 needed for the project, the work was scheduled to be done this summer, but the contractor’s machine needed to resurface the floor broke, and he asked that the project be postponed until the summer of 2020.

“We were already five years in and the girls that played for Coach Mac did not get a chance to play on his floor,” Ansbaugh said. “It became a priority to me that we get this project done in time for this year’s seniors to be able to play at least part of their senior season on the new floor, so we scheduled the work to start a week before Christmas break.”

McMullen arrived in St. Cloud in 1984, taking over the girls’ basketball program. Until the time of his passing he coached many different teams, including boy basketball, boys and girls cross country, boys and girls track and field, and both tennis teams. For 33 years he was a pillar, a force, the dynamic spirit of the school’s athletic department.

His teams won more than three-dozen Orange Belt Conference championships. His athletes made more than a dozen trips to the state cross country meet, and his track teams won multiple district championships. Dozens of his athletes earned medals at the state tournaments, and he coached several state track champions.

“What can you say? He was just a great guy,” former St. Cloud High Principal George Sullivan said. “He was one of those guys who was authentic. You knew that for him, it was all about the kids, and he meant it. If you can say anything about the man, it was the size of his heart.”

Of the thousands he coached, probably no student/athlete was dearer to Coach Mac than Kevin Harkema, who succeeded McMullen as the school’s track and cross country coach. Harkema competed in three sports under McMullen as a student at St. Cloud in the 1990s, won a cross-country scholarship to USF, and then coached alongside of Coach Mac for a decade.

“He was a second father to me for 26 years. He always made me laugh,” Harkema said. “That is the greatest memory I can have because that is one of the two things he enjoyed the most: making others laugh and coaching.”

Harkema said that outsiders who were taken aback by McMullen’s verbal explosions did not understand the man.

“He had a way of pushing athletes beyond their ability level and that’s what made him so great,” Harkema said. “People on the outside see the antics, but for those many who played or ran for him, they understand the love and passion he had.”

McMullen was named the M. Dean Cherry Award winner as Osceola County’s Coach of the Year in 2005 and he was also inducted into the St. Cloud High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

Editor’s Note: Retired Osceola News Gazette Sports Editor Rick Pedone contributed to this story with quotes from his 2017 piece on Coach McMullen.