by Doug Ireland
In Southland Conference and Louisiana basketball history, Mike McConathy has a unique and remarkable place as a player and head coach, as he begins his 20th season running the Northwestern State Demons’ program.
He’s regarded as one of the greatest players in state and conference history, scoring 2,033 points (20.7 per game) from 1973-77 at Louisiana Tech, leading the Bulldogs to the 1976 conference crown as the Southland Player of the Year.
He ranks among the greatest coaches as well, first starting the program at Bossier Parish Community College, and then revitalizing Northwestern’s tradition, where his father (John), his sons (Michael and Logan), and his uncles (George and Leslie) all played.
With 636 victories entering his 35th season overall, he is the winningest college coach in Louisiana basketball history.
His teams have scored road wins over Oklahoma State, Mississippi State, Auburn and Oregon State, and in the most remarkable win in the program’s 106-year-old history, knocked off No. 15 Iowa in a 14 vs. 3 seed upset in the 2006 NCAA Tournament.
He is a master of March Madness. NSU is 18-9 in Southland Tournament play, and is 2-3 in the “Big Dance,” beating Winthrop (2001) and Iowa.
McConathy’s core philosophies include the belief “the MVP of our team IS our team.” His use of a deep rotation, often with wave substitutions of five-for-five, is a tried-and-true method that annually has NSU playing its best basketball down the stretch.
Less than two dozen Division I basketball coaches have been at their current school for 20 years. His peers in this distinction include Mike Krzyzewski (Duke), Tom Izzo (Michigan State), and Jim Boeheim (Syracuse).
McConathy has constantly promoted educational values for, and with, his players. Almost 90 percent of the seniors in his NSU program have graduated.
The Demon program has ranked at or near the top among Louisiana and Southland Conference teams in the NCAA’s Academic Progress Rate annual report since its creation more than a decade ago. Almost 90 percent of McConathy’s players, including those on the team when he arrived in 1999, have graduated from NSU.
The National Association of Basketball Coaches gave McConathy its’ Guardians of the Game Pillar Award for Education during the 2012 Final Four.
He is on the USA Today coaches’ top 25 voting panel for the 13th consecutive season.
Those credentials, coupled with his character, fun-loving personality and servant/leader mentality, explain how many at and around NSU hope he stays around for another 20 seasons.