HANCOCK - Finlandia University made big news across the U.P. for the second time this week when it announced the hiring of Mike O'Donnell as its new men's basketball coach.
O'Donnell is a three-time U.P. Class ABC Coach of the Year at Negaunee High School and will be leaving the sidelines at Lakeview Memorial Gym to coach at his alma mater. The Lions this week also named Tim Driscoll as the school's first football coach.
"Being able to come back to my alma mater is something I'm extremely excited about," he said in a press release. "This is a place where I had success as a player and a student, and I hope help my players learn to be successful not only on the court, but in the classroom as well."
Negaunee coach MiKE O’Donnell, center, and the Negaunee bench watch in the closing minutes of their 69-54 loss to Detroit Consortium in their MHSAA Class C semifinal game last month in East Lansing.
O'Donnell graduated from Finlandia in 2004 and during his career helped the Lions to the 2001 United States Collegiate Athletic Association Division I championship, being named the tournament MVP.
"We are extremely excited to have Mike come back and be a part of the Finlandia Lions family once again," athletic director Chris Salani said. "The successes he's had as a basketball coach and as a teacher exemplify what we want from our student athletes here at Finlandia.
Since he took over the Miners, O'Donnell won eight district championships, six regional championships and reached the final four of the MHSAA Class C tournament three times. His record at Negaunee is 180-48 for a .789 winning percentage.
O'Donnell was named U.P. Class ABC Coach of the Year in 2008, 2013 and 2014 and his Miner teams have been named Class C Team of the Year in five of the last seven seasons, including the last four in a row.
Finlandia posted a 5-18 record in the third and final season under Terry Smith, who resigned to pursue new career opportunities.
"Our goal will be to build a strong, successful Division III basketball program with a core of players who love to call the Upper Peninsula home," O'Donnell said. "This is a unique program in our region, and I think it's a great opportunity for U.P. players to showcase their talents."