Donoher reunion also an early birthday celebration for Dayton’s winningest coach

Event in October brought back players from three different decades

George Janky has organized three reunions of Dayton Flyers who played for Don Donoher.

“The first one was when I got let go,” Donoher said earlier this fall. “The second one was on the 25-year anniversary. Now this one is only seven years since the last one.”

Joked Donoher, the winningest men’s basketball coach in school history with 437 victories in 25 seasons, “I don’t think George has a lot of confidence in my longevity.”

The reunion, held Oct. 9 at the Courtyard by Marriott across from UD Arena, was also an early birthday part because Donoher turns 90 on Jan. 21.

“We’re all getting older,” said Janky, the leading scorer on the first team to play at UD Arena in the 1969-70 season. “I remember at the old UD Fieldhouse, we used go down the hallway to the floor, and they had pictures of all the teams that were older, and Ken May used to say, ‘Look at all these old guys.’ Well, guess what? We are those old guys now. (Donoher’s) 90. We’re not much younger.”

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Some of the players were still in their 20s when the first reunion was held in 1992, three years after Donoher’s last season as coach and on the same weekend the coach was inducted into UD’s hall of fame. A second reunion was held in 2014 at the same Marriott.

Photographs, taken by Natalie Schindler, from the reunion in October show Donoher posing for a group photo with his former players. Dayton’s current head coach, Anthony Grant, who played for Donoher from 1983-87, stood next to his coach. Dayton’s all-time leading scorer, Roosevelt Chapman, stood behind them. Don May and Ken May were there, as was Chris Harris, Doug Harris, Rex Gardecki, Kevin Conrad, Damon Goodwin, Bobby Joe Hooper, J.D. Grigsby, Jack Zimmerman, Tom Crosswhite, etc.

Players, coaches and managers who were a part of the program from 1964-89 were invited.

“It was awesome,” Grant said. “I saw some some former teammates that I hadn’t seen in a while, some guys that played in eras before that I hadn’t seen obviously since the pandemic, and it was great to see coach. I thought he looked great. It was kind of a reunion/early birthday celebration for coach so it was great to spend some time with him and spend some time with some former teammates and guys that I hadn’t seen in a while.”

Credit: Natalie Schindler Photography

Credit: Natalie Schindler Photography

Credit: Natalie Schindler Photography

Credit: Natalie Schindler Photography

Everyone who attended received a swag bag with gifts, including a coin with the Donoher Fraternity logo and a set of four glasses with the same logo. Uniform tops from different eras of Dayton basketball hung on the wall behind a speaker’s podium.

A cake made by Ashley’s Pastry Shop in Oakwood featured images of Donoher throughout his career. The icing read simply, “Happy birthday, Coach.” Dayton’s mascot, Rudy Flyer, brought the cake out to the banquet room.

One of the speakers was Hooper, who played for Donoher from 1965-68. He read a list of 21 players from the Donoher era who have died and also recognized Donoher’s late wife Sonia, who died in November 2020.

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Dan Sadlier, one of the members of the 1967 national runner-up team in attendance, emceed the program. The highlight for Conrad, who played for Donoher from 1979-83, was when his coach spoke.

“He just talked about the tradition of former players and how amazed he was at the turnout,” Conrad said. “He’s such a humble guy, I just don’t think he realized just how much love there is for him personally from his former players. He told some stories about games in the arena and guys he had coached. It was a pretty special night from that standpoint.”

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