Jeremy MacDonald has a longstanding history at both Rocky Boy and Box Elder high schools. MacDonald was a student at both, an athlete for both, and now an employee for both schools.
MacDonald is back on the Hi-Line as the current head coach of the Box Elder Bears boys basketball team, a team that is state tournament-bound for the first time since the Bears captured the 1990 state championship. MacDonald and the No. 1 ranked Class C Bears will spend the weekend at the Butte Civic Center in Butte, making now the perfect time to get to know coach MacDonald a little more.
As a student, MacDonald spent the first three years attending and playing basketball for the Rocky Boy Stars. MacDonald played his senior season with the Bears and graduated from Box Elder. He was also named to the All Division Tournament Team as a sophomore and played at the state tournament with the Stars as a junior, but did not place. MacDonald was also part of three conference championship teams and two District 9C champion teams.
After graduating from Box Elder, MacDonald got his bachelor’s degree in elementary education and Native American studies from the University of Montana in Missoula. And after moving to Phoenix, MacDonald got his master’s degree at Arizona State in curriculum and instruction. After a seven-year stay in Phoenix MacDonald returned to Rocky Boy, coaching the elementary and junior high basketball teams and teaching. But now, MacDonald is the dean of students at Rocky Boy and the head boys basketball coach for Box Elder.
The Bears and Stars have had a good rivalry over the years, and that rivalry was relevant this season again. The Stars had a solid Class B season and the Bears are nearing the end of an outstanding Class C season. Both teams also met at the beginning of the season when the Bears defeated the Stars at the Native American Classic in Havre.
Splitting time between two rival schools isn’t easy, but MacDonald seems to be the right man for the job.
Here are five questions to help local basketball fans get to know coach MacDonald as he continues to guide Box Elder in what has already been a historic season.
HDN: What is it like working at a rival school to where you coach?
MacDonald: “Like I tell the boys that I am coaching, I am a Star fan pretty much every day of the year except for one, the day we play Rocky Boy at the Native American Classic. I think our community, for the most part, will root for both schools, and most people have relatives that play for both schools. Even the most diehard Stars’ fan has a relative playing for the Bears, and vise versa.”
HDN: I know you spend a lot of time in the gym with your team, but what do you like to do in your free time?
MacDonald: “I like spending time with my wife (Julie) and three boys (Duncan, 13, Noah, 3, and Teddy, almost 2). We do a lot of traveling during the summer. My wife is from Michigan, so we go to Tiger’s baseball games and have probably hit most of the professional ballparks between Montana and Michigan. When we lived in Arizona we would travel in a big triangle between Montana, Michigan, and Arizona, camping and hitting the national parks. Now that we have little guys we also spend a lot more time at places like water parks, but I mostly travel and spend as much time as I can with my family.”
HDN: Where do you get your coaching philosophy, style, from?
MacDonald: “I pick up a lot of stuff from a lot of different coaches. My dad was a coach, so I picked stuff up from him, but as far as the aggressive defense and up tempo, I like what Rick Petino does at Louisville. But I have read books about John Wooden, Phil Jackson, even though I hate the Lakers, Mike Krzyzewski, and I have a book on Dean Smith I haven’t gotten a chance to read yet. I just try to pick up whatever I can from coaches who have had success, then I try to meld some things together that I think our boys can do. We play a different style than most teams we face.”
HDN: Where do you want your coaching career to lead?
MacDonald: “The only plans I have right now is winning three games in Butte and getting a state championship. When I was a player all I wanted to do was win state, it was a dream of mine growing up and it didn’t happen. Right now, I have another opportunity with the Bears and that has been my goal. I haven’t thought much about anything else or any further goals. My focus is to get this team prepared to win a championship.”
HDN: Who is more excited about the state tournament, you, or the players?
MacDonald: “I think we are all excited. I think they are a little bit more excited I guess, because I have to do a lot of team preparations and studying the opposing team’s strengths. The kids just get to go out and play and they get to enjoy the best part.”