Tiger McKinnon dead, former Ward Melville basketball and lacrosse standout was 46
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Tiger McKinnon was known for assisting, whether it was being a member of championship basketball and lacrosse teams at Ward Melville High School, donating a kidney to his father, coaching teen athletes or serving as vice president of Percival Financial Partners in Baltimore.
He lifted the spirits of his mother and various relatives and friends every day. So when they didn't hear from him, they grew worried. He died at his Baltimore home on March 28, and the cause of his death is still undetermined, family members said. He was 46.
Social media lit up with tributes right away, said his sister, Yolanda Shields of Setauket. "So many people said, 'You can't believe how much he helped me through hard times. He was always there for me,' " she said.
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His given name was Machiel, but he was known only as Tiger ever since he showed an energetic nature as a toddler. "He was socializing from the day he was born," Shields said, adding that her parents, Emily "Dee" and McArthur, were teaching at Kittrell (N.C.) Junior College and couldn't afford a baby-sitter. "So the entire college was his baby-sitter."
He moved with his family to Long Island in 1974, as Dee taught science at Center Moriches High School and "Mac" taught physical education at Freeport's Dodd Junior High. The latter won five conference titles as Freeport High School basketball coach and passed on his love of sports to his son.
Tiger McKinnon was a key member of the Ward Melville squads that won Suffolk Class A titles in basketball and lacrosse. He earned a scholarship for lacrosse at Towson (Md.) University, where he also played football. He mentored his sister Toni to become a star athlete at Ward Melville in East Setauket. Now, Toni Mulgrave, of South Setauket, is varsity girls basketball and volleyball coach at Bayport-Blue Point High School.
"He was the spitting image of my dad. The only difference was that my dad was quiet and Tiger was outgoing. If you had a party, you wanted Tiger there," Shields said.
McKinnon served briefly in the U.S. Navy but left to tend to his father, who was suffering from kidney disease. The son donated one of his kidneys in September 2003 and said, after his father died in 2004, "I was donating it to my best friend."
McKinnon was an assistant football coach at Harborfields High in Greenlawn before pursuing a career in business. In his spare time, he still was an assistant football and lacrosse coach at Polytech High in Baltimore.
Along with his mother, of South Setauket, and his sisters, he is survived by a daughter, Taila DeBrule of Hampton, Va.; son Benjamin LeSane of Baltimore; and five nieces and nephews. A funeral Mass was held Saturday at St. Cuthbert's Episcopal Church in Selden.