McDonald has played in over 485 NBL games, and was a starting member of the teams which won the 1994, 2006, and 2008 NBL Championships, and has twice been named the NBL All-Star Game MVP. In 2011, he was the interim Coach for the Melbourne Tigers, and he is currently the 1sts Basketball Coach at Wesley College, Melbourne and the Head Coach for the Hawthorn Magic Boys under 16s program. His team has reached the Grand Final of the Victorian Junior Basketball League 1.
Born in New York City and growing up on the streets of Harlem, Manhattan, McDonald learned to play basketball on the tough New York playground courts such as the famous Rucker Park. Known as "Mr. Excitement" and "D-Mac: The Playground King.", he battled against New York playground legends such as The Terminator, Master Rob and Pookie Wilson as well as future NBA stars Rod Strickland and Mario 'The Jedi' Elie.
McDonald played basketball for Westchester Community College after his graduation from high school. After hearing about the young point guard, Texas A&M coach Shelby Metcalf travelled to Harlem in 1985 to see McDonald play on the playgrounds. Thoroughly impressed, Metcalf began recruiting McDonald to come to Texas and play for the Aggies. Fortunately for Metcalf, McDonald had already decided to leave New York. His neighbourhood in Harlem was very dangerous, and McDonald's brother had in fact been shot and killed by robbers in early 1985. After agreeing to attend Texas A&M, McDonald spent the first few days of his stay in College Station in his dorm room, convinced that the number of gun racks he saw on pick-up trucks throughout town meant the area was as dangerous as the place he had left.
His early years in Texas were frustrating as Metcalf tried to change's McDonald's style of play. McDonald was a "creative and flashy" player who liked playing to the crowd. With superb instincts, McDonald had a knack for stealing the ball but had difficulty playing straight-up defence. Metcalf finally agreed to allow McDonald to play as he saw fit, with good results. In 1987, McDonald led the Aggies to the Southwest Conference Tournament Championship, despite the fact that the Aggies entered the tournament as the No. 8 seed after losing nine of their last eleven conference games. For his performance, McDonald was named the tournament MVP. Their victory earned the team an automatic bid to the 1987 NCAA Tournament, Metcalf's final tournament appearance, and the last for the Aggies until 2006. The Aggies played a tough game against Duke but ultimately lost their first-round game, exiting the tournament.
After graduating from Texas A&M, McDonald spent several years playing in the relative obscurity of the Canadian NBL, where he was named an All-Star in 1993 while playing to Cape Breton, and the CBA where he played for the Oklahoma City Cavalry and the Sioux Falls Skyforce. A chance encounter led D-Mac's career Down Under. Brett Brown, at the time coach of the North Melbourne Giants, was watching a tape of a CBA game to scout a different player. As soon as he saw D-Mac, he knew that was the player he wanted.
In McDonald's first year in the league in 1994, he led the Giants to the NBL championship with a 2–0 Grand Final series win over the Adelaide 36ers, including hitting the game winning shot in overtime in Game 1 of the series at the Clipsal Powerhouse in Adelaide to give the Giants a 95–93 win. D-Mac was also named the runner-up in the NBL Most Valuable Player voting and the runner-up for the NBL's Best Defensive Player Award. For each of his first three years (1994–1997), McDonald led the league in assists and steals, winning the NBL Good Hands Award each year, and was again named runner-up NBL Most Value Player in 1997. From 1995–1997 he played in the NBL All Star-Game, becoming the MVP of the 1996 game. McDonald was named to the All-NBL First Team from 1994–1996 and to the All-NBL Second team in 1997.
McDonald continued to remain with his team when they merged into the Victoria Titans in 1998–99 under coach Brian Goorjian, and then becoming a member of the Victoria Giants after the Titans folded following the 2001–02 NBL season. Despite finishing second in the NBL in assists in 2001–02 and 2002–03, and being the NBL leader in steals in 2000–01 and 2002–03, McDonald was sacked by the Giants after the 2003 season as they decided to move in a younger direction.
The Melbourne Tigers quickly picked him up, and he served as a backup to Andrew Gaze and Lanard Copeland for two seasons, earning NBL Best Sixth Man honours in 2004. The 2005–06 season saw McDonald return to the starting line-up, and his play saw many sporting commentators wonder how his 42-year-old body was able to sustain his elite level of play and athleticism. McDonald helped lead the Tigers to the 2006 championship, outclassing many of his younger opponents along the way including starting Australian Boomers point guard CJ Bruton. He was named among the finalist for the NBL's 25th Anniversary Team, finishing 17th in the final voting, and was named to the 2006 NBL Aussie All-Star Team, where he was named the MVP.
McDonald signed a contract extension to lead the Tigers past his 44th birthday. His contract also gives him the opportunity to coach a Melbourne Tigers developmental team in the off-season. Despite his age, he was still one of the quickest and most explosive players in the NBL, but rarely played a full game due to his age and limited stamina. He retired after Game 5 of the 2007–08 Grand Final series win over the Brian Goorjian coached Sydney Kings.
McDonald has dual American/Australian citizenship. He has seven children, all of whose names start with D, who were born between 1980 and 2004. Their names are Darryl Jr (31), Derrick (30), Darren (27),Denisha (24),Dontaya (21), Durrell (19), and Dakotah (13). Although four of his children live in the United States (Darren, Durrell, Denisha, and Dontaya), McDonald, his partner Tania, and the other children live in Melbourne (Darryl, Derrick, Dakota).
McDonald once appeared on Judge Judy to debate a custody hearing for one of his children. The case was held shortly after his season finished in Australia, with McDonald just making it to the trial.
His second oldest son, Derrick, who plays for the Melbourne Tigers Big V (VBL) team, and was able to make the Tigers' roster as a developmental player in the 2006–07 season.When playing on the same team as his son, Darryl and Derrick were able to make history in the NBL by having the first father son duo on the court at the same time. D-Mac was able to share court time with him throughout the season, starting with the pre-season competition, the Singapore Cup, and leading into the Grand Final series. This was widely regarded as a first in professional basketball.
From 2007 onwards Darryl began coaching the Wesley College Firsts basketball team. Winning the 2010 Premiership and beating the previously "unbeatable" Caulfield Grammar has no doubt been his highest achievement to date. As of 2012 he is still the head coach.
Currently, Darryl is involved with basketball coaching at AUBD, a basketball program run by NBA veteran Sedale Threatt and his son Sedale Threatt Jr.