By Mike Hickey
Special to the Record
John McDonaugh, an internationally acclaimed basketball official who had strong ties to the Eastern Townships, passed away on New Year’s Day after a year-long battle with cancer.
Fittingly, tributes and testimonials have swamped social media with the Montreal native being praised for the fairness, class and integrity that he displayed throughout his life, not only as a referee but also as an educator, community volunteer and devoted family man. His life was characterized by accomplishments, a sense of duty and empathy towards his fellow man.
John grew ups in Montreal’s St. Henri district where he excelled in the classroom and in athletics. He was a star player for the St. Joseph Teachers College where he met the acquaintance of Knowlton native Richard Staples. Staples convinced McDonough and the St. Joseph’s team to travel to Knowlton in 1961 to scrimmage the Knowlton Academy which was preparing for the Viser tournament. The Knowlton team was led by Richard’s brother, Lionel “Butch” Staples, who would go on to fame at Bishop’s University. McDonaugh brought the St. Joe’s team back to Knowlton the following year cementing a lifelong friendship with the Staple brothers. More importantly he was introduced to their sister Sandy and before long John and Sandy were dating.
After graduation from St. Joseph’s John spent two years at Bishop’s University, playing one season with the Gaiters and playing two season of semi-pro basketball with the Northern Oiles before he moved back to Montreal. There John enjoyed a long career as a teacher and guidance counselor while raising two children, Shannon and Seam with Sandy.
But it was on the basketball court as a referee that John gained international recognition. He first began blowing the whistle in 1960 and by the end of the 60s he was referring at the University Nationals as well as international games. Whenever John McDonaugh walked into a gym to referee a basketball game there was always a sigh of relief from participating coaches and players who know that the upcoming contest will be well officiated. While officials in any sport are the constant bane of team members and spectators who often use the refs are excuses for losses, that was never the case with McDonough who simply was the best of his era. He referred with professionalism and grace and handled the most difficult coach or player with the tact of a seasoned diplomat.
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