NATCHITOCHES —Northwestern State's Mike McConathy, who became Louisiana's winningest all-time men's college basketball coach this year while leading the Demons to the NCAA Tournament, will be an honored guest Friday during commencement exercises at NSU and Bossier Parish Community College.
Tuesday night, he was given keys to the city in his hometown of Bossier City while Mayor Lo Walker and the Bossier City Council honored their native son for “exceptional achievement.”
McConathy, a former Airline standout, was the head coach at BPCC for 16 years before going to NSU.
This morning at the commencement exercises in NSU’s Prather Coliseum, university president Dr. Randy Webb was scheduled to recognize McConathy for this season’s accomplishments. Four members of his program are among Friday’s graduates: 2012 senior Louis Ellis, 2013 seniors O.J. Evans and David Ulak, and team manager Rickey Doyle. In McConathy’s 14 seasons at Northwestern, 85 percent of his seniors have graduated.
This afternoon, McConathy was scheduled to be saluted during BPCC’s 2 o'clock graduation ceremony.
This March, McConathy became the winningest men’s college basketball coach in Louisiana history. Combined with his 352 career victories at Bossier Parish Community College over 16 seasons beginning with launching the program, McConathy has won 223 more at Northwestern for a career total of 575 all-time wins, passing Grambling’s Fred Hobdy (572-288 until he retired in 1986).
The 2012-13 Demons were one of the most exciting, entertaining teams in school history, finishing with a 23-9 record, posting the second-biggest win total ever at Northwestern. They ranked among the nation’s top 100 teams in 11 NCAA statistical categories, including second nationally in scoring (80 points per game) and sixth in steals per game (9.8).
The season culminated with a Southland Conference Tournament championship and NSU's third berth in the NCAA Tournament. A hard-fought loss to the Southeastern Conference champion Florida Gators, a team that held the No. 1 national ranking earlier in the season, capped a remarkable centennial season for McConathy and Demon basketball.
McConathy has won 61 percent of the games he's coached. With the Demons, he is 150-114 against Southland Conference foes (134-107 regular season, 16-7 in conference tournament play).
For the fifth year, he was part of the ESPN/USA Today Coaches' Top 25 voting panel. He served his third straight year as the NCAA's coaches' regional advisory committee assisting with the NCAA Tournament selection process.
He received the 2012 National Association of Basketball Coaches Guardians of the Game Pillar Award for Education during NCAA Final Four weekend last April in New Orleans. It is among the most prestigious awards presented by the NABC, representing one of the four core values of the Guardians of the Game program - education, leadership, advocacy and service.
McConathy has constantly promoted educational values for, and with, his players. The Demons received a perfect Academic Progress Rate score in the NCAA's most recent report in May 2011 and have consistently ranked among state, Southland Conference and even national leaders in that and the NCAA's Graduation Success Rate under McConathy's leadership.
National television and radio analysts and announcers such as Tim Brando, Verne Lundquist and Bill Raftery of CBS Sports, Doug Gottlieb and Jerry Punch of ESPN, and Charles Barkley have expressed their admiration of McConathy, as much for his core values as for his coaching acumen.
Three Division I head coaches - Marquette's Buzz Williams, McNeese's Dave Simmons and Mark Slessinger of New Orleans - have served on his Demon coaching staff.
Demon basketball has evolved in his tenure from being nearly an afterthought in the historic city of Natchitoches to providing the sports heartbeat of northwest Louisiana in February and March.
McConathy brought the philosophy of "Championship Basketball ... with a Purpose!" to NSU in March of 1999.
His Demons have been to the Big Dance three times (2001, 2006, 2013), winning a NCAA Tournament game in the first two trips, and reached to the Southland Conference Tournament championship game seven times in his 14 seasons (2000, 2001, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2013).
Only the Demons and Louisiana-Monroe (1990-93) have made four straight championship game appearances in the five decades of SLC basketball competition.
His Demons captured the hearts of the nation in March 2006 with their appearance in the NCAA Tournament. NSU became the "Cinderella team" in the first-round of the tournament by beating regional third-seed Iowa, 64-63, on a last-second basket that completed a run from a 54-37 deficit with eight minutes to play. Iowa was ranked 15th in the country and had just won the Big Ten Conference Tournament.
Attendance records have been shattered at Prather Coliseum during McConathy's tenure, with the overall average per game attendance having almost doubled from prior to his arrival.