The Gonzaga Fathers Club and the Gonzaga DC Classic Tournament Committee fondly remember Tournament co-founder John McLaughlin who passed away in September 2023. John was the driving force behind the Tournament, and he watched it grow in size and scope over the last 30 plus years. John’s vision and leadership helped the Gonzaga DC Classic blossom to become one of the preeminent high school basketball tournaments in the country. Throughout the decades, John never lost sight of the mission of the Tournament which was to support the goals of good basketball, fellowship among teams and players, citizenship and community service. These goals were embodied in the Tournament’s motto, “Great Basketball Supporting Good Works.” Indeed, for many, John McLaughlin was the Gonzaga DC Classic. Over 30 years ago, John McLaughlin and Mike Kelleher and a few other Gonzaga dads began working to create a Gonzaga basketball tournament which was later named the “Gonzaga DC Classic Basketball Tournament.” Father Bernard Dooley, Gonzaga President, approved the idea but cautioned that the Tournament would have to be sponsored and operated by the Gonzaga Fathers Club (GFC).
The first Tournament was held in December 1989 with four teams over two days. The field for the initial DC Classic was DeMatha, Dunbar (Baltimore), Coolidge (DC) and Gonzaga. A Tournament Program was produced listing the roster of each team, Committee members, and advertisers with a greeting letter from Father Dooley. The Tournament sponsor would be the GFC and always remain so. The Gonzaga Athletic Department was quite helpful in making arrangements for referees, locker rooms and other necessary items. Tournament planning continued through the summer and fall of 1989. The Tournament came to fruition on December 21, 1989 and was an immediate success.
Working with school officials, John and the Committee decided that Tournament funds should be used to support Gonzaga service projects in which Gonzaga students participated. Since the first Tournament, hundreds of Gonzaga dads have volunteered in operating the Tournament. That has included fathers of current students as well as past students. Each year, the Tournament provides a specially designed tee-shirt for all players as well as various items of Tournament apparel designed by members of the Tournament Committee.
Some of the institutions supported by Tournament funds are: The Father McKenna Center, Gonzaga Campus Kitchen, and the Washington Jesuit Academy. Additionally, the Tournament supports Service Projects in: Apopka, Florida, Camden, New Jersey, Red Cloud Indian School, US/Mexico Border, Dominican Republic, and Quito, Ecuador.
As part of John’s vision to put on a first class event, the Tournament also arranges for hotel rooms for visiting teams in some of Washington’s finest hotels and for meals for each team after its games provided free from well-known commercial establishments. The Tournament Committee seeks to make the Tournament a satisfying experience for each team with the result that many teams regularly contact us seeking to be invited to the Tournament again. It is the only nationally known High School Tournament that has always been operated by an all-volunteer force of Gonzaga men. The DC Classic combines excellent high school basketball with service to those in need.
John is survived by his beloved wife of 54 years, Christine Tully McLaughlin; his three brothers and their spouses: Robert (Suzanne), Michael (Vera), Joseph (the late Christine); his five children and their spouses: John Joseph IV (Kathryn), Timothy Patrick (Julie Madi), Maureen Christie (Brian), Brian Tully (Gabriela), Anne Elizabeth; as well as ten grandchildren: Annika, Anjamora, John Joseph V, Colin, Tadhg, Tully, Fiadh, Isabella, Jonathan, and Isabelle Grace.
During this weekend as we celebrate the 34th Annual Gonzaga DC Classic, John’s stewardship over the years has ensured that the basketball games, while good in and of themselves, serve a much higher purpose: SERVICE TO THOSE IN NEED. This has been our most important goal, i.e., serving many in important and enduring ways but receiving enriching gifts from many in important and lasting ways.
We remember John for his vision, commitment, and leadership over the decades guiding the Gonzaga DC Classic Tournament to the outstanding event it is today. Thank you, John. And thank you for being a “Man for Others.”