Prep Baseball & Softball

National-champion coach Tom Donald won’t be back with Buchanan this season

Buchanan High baseball coach Tom Donald, center, in a 2017 game.
Buchanan High baseball coach Tom Donald, center, in a 2017 game. Fresno Bee file

Tom Donald is stepping away for the season as the Buchanan High baseball coach, Clovis Unified announced Thursday.

District spokeswoman Kelly Avants said Donald informed his team Thursday afternoon. Donald hasn’t been with the team since the season started on Feb. 12. He is still teaching, Avants said. The district did not elaborate on last week’s announcement that his absence from coaching was so he could attend to personal business.

In an interview Thursday afternoon, Donald said, “Stepping away at this time will really give me my time to really focus on some personal things that I need to address in my life, mainly relationships within my family, and although this has been a difficult time, it’s also been a time of enlightenment and time for me to reflect on what’s really important.

“I know what it probably looks like, but at the same time I know this is going to give me an opportunity to really mend some relationships. I need some personal time to do that and I don’t want this to be hanging over the boys and the program, coaches and the community. “

Last week, Clovis Unified said Donald was expected to return shortly after the start of the Tri-River Athletic Conference season in March. Thursday, Donald said he decided within the previous 24 hours that he wanted to step away for the season.

“I was not pushed out by any means or asked to” step away, Donald said. “It was my decision.”

He added that he’s not sure when – or if – he will return.

Donald has coached at Buchanan for 21 seasons, leading the Bears to two national baseball championships in the past decade. Buchanan has won six Central Section championships under Donald.

Donald missed time before: In 2007, he was removed from the team by the district for the final three weeks of the season for an undisclosed reason.

Assistant coach Brad Fontes has been running the program in Donald’s absence, Avants said

The Bears opened the season Feb. 12 and are 5-1 heading into the Central California Showcase against Franklin-Elk Grove at 6 p.m. Friday.

Anthony Galaviz: 559-441-6042, agalaviz_TheBee

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Anthony Galaviz writes about sports for The Fresno Bee. He covers the Oakland Raiders, high schools, boxing, MMA and junior colleges. He’s been with The Bee since 1997 and attended Fresno City College before graduating from Fresno State with a major in journalism and a minor in criminology.