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Minnesota coaches group spurns Mr. Basketball chairman who tweeted against Muslims, creates new award

Amid controversy surrounding the integrity of the Minnesota Mr. Basketball Award, the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association announced Monday the establishment of the McDonald Award — an honor designated for the top senior basketball player in the state of Minnesota, starting with the 2017-18 season.

The award is named after legendary Chisholm basketball coach Bob McDonald, who coached for 59 years and amassed 1,012 victories, the most in state history.

“In moving forward it is the goal of the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association that the McDonald Award will be widely viewed as the top award that a high school basketball player in Minnesota can receive,” a news release announcing the award read.

Controversy arose over the weekend when Ken Lien, the owner and chairman of the Minnesota Mr. Basketball Award, quoted a tweet regarding Muslim high school students in New Jersey with the comment “Run their asses outta there!” from the Mr. Basketball Twitter account.

Henry Sibley coach John Carrier then took to Twitter to deliver a message to Lien.

“As a teacher and a coach that works with Muslim students and minority students these types of comments are disgusting and unacceptable in my eyes,” Carrier wrote. “Also unacceptable are some other tweets that you have made in the past that were racist. This is not a view I want representing our state for Mr. Basketball.”

Others brought more controversial tweets from Lien to light and support for Carrier’s message continued to mount. The MBCA tweeted a message demonstrating its support for Carrier, adding “Using the words of Cesar Chavez, the Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association will continue to strive to ‘cherish and preserve the ethnic and culture diversity that nourishes and strengthens coaches, athletes, students, communities and this nation.’ ”

Still, nothing could be done about Lien’s association with the Minnesota Mr. Basketball Award. That’s a separate entity from the MBCA, and Lien owns the property.

Thus, the McDonald award was born. The release said the award will be patterned after the Wooden Award, honoring former UCLA coach John Wooden, in college basketball.

“Qualifications such as exhibiting strength of character, both on and off the court; contributing to team effort; excelling on both offense and defense; and performance over the course of the entire season,” the release said.

The tentative plan for the award’s selection committee is to include retired and/or Hall of Fame coaches representing geographic locations across the state, including various parts of the metro.

“In addition to selecting the Player of the Year; the establishment of the award is also designed to focus attention on the positive aspects of basketball and the role coaches play in the lives of all the student athletes they represent and serve,” the release said.

Minneapolis North coach Larry McKenzie said he’s glad an award for the state’s top senior player will now be in the hands of the coaches, adding he didn’t know who besides Lien serves on the Minnesota Mr. Basketball committee.

“I’m extremely happy,” McKenzie said. “In light of all the things that have been going on, it’s the right thing to do.”

It’s not clear exactly what the inception of the McDonald Award means for the future of the Minnesota Mr. Basketball Award. As of now, Mr. Basketball is still the primary award for the state’s top senior for at least this season. A call to Lien was not immediately returned Monday evening.

McKenzie, who said no one is more worthy for the new award’s namesake than Bob McDonald, credited MBCA executive director Tom Critchley and the rest of the association for their swift action.

McKenzie then quoted Nelson Mandela, speaking to how sports are one of few things that can break down racial barriers.

“It’s an opportunity for us to make a difference, not build walls,” McKenzie said. “I’m glad the coaches felt that way.”

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