Donnie Tyndall takes steps to redeems coaching dreams

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Staying sane and positive during the coronavirus pandemic can be difficult for some.

Grand Rapids Drive basketball coach Donnie Tyndall says on a scale of one to ten of missing basketball, he’s at a 30.

“I’m a basketball junky. That’s how I’ve always been,” Tyndall said.

He was an outstanding player at Northview High School in the late 1980s. Tyndall says he’s loved the game since he was 4 years old.

At times, basketball has loved him back, but there have also been some painful times along the way.

During this time, he’s leaning on the same things he did the last time basketball was taken away from him.

“The biggest thing is my faith and my family. Not to try and be too spiritual, but when you lose something that really means the world to you, outside of probably losing a child, I couldn’t imagine something being more devstating to me personally, as much as my job and my career meant,” Tyndall said.

The first time he lost the game was during his two-year stint at the University of Southern Mississippi when the NCAA hit him with a 10-year ban. They penalized him for failing to provide an atmosphere of compliance and academic fraud

“The bottom line is, the NCAA used me as an example, who knows why or how come. But if you don’t have a university in that committee hearing fighting for you, a president, an athletic director, you really have no chance. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to me,” he said.

Meanwhile, coaches caught up in the sneaker scandal back in 2017 are still working — Sean Miller at the University of Arizona Bill Self at the University of Kansas.

“I’m never going to be one of those guys to say, ‘He should be fired. He shouldn’t be coaching.’ There’s always another side to it. I’m never going to judge someone else,” Tyndall said.

With college basketball no longer an option, Tyndall took an assistant coaching job in the G Leauge — first with Toronto and then in Grand Rapids. And this year, for the first time since he was fired by the University of Tennessee, he was a head coach again. His work with the Drive is a big step in redeeming his career.

“Those of you that know my background, I went through some tough times. For four or five years, where you’re at your dream job, things don’t work out the way you hoped, so you just try and scrap and claw, be resilient, which I think we’ve done,” Tyndall said. “So I know I’m fortunate and very, very excited about the opportunity coach Casey gave to me. Hopefully we did a good job by him and didn’t let him down.

The Drive was in position to make the playoffs before the pandemic hit, maybe even host a home playoff game for the first time.

During the shut down, Tyndall is watching tape and preparing for next year or the next opportunity.

He’s back in coaching and back doing what he loves, while chasing a new dream.

“Hopefully some day I get an opportunity to be an NBA assistant, and then a longer-term goal would be to be an NBA coach,” Tyndall said. I love being a head coach. I’ve always been one of those guys to shoot for the stars. If I don’t reach it, I don’t reach it, but that’s the plan and the goal right now.”