John McConathy, former Bossier High basketball coach and longtime educator in Bossier Parish, passed away early Tuesday morning at 86.
“Mr. John was sort of a legend here,” said former Haughton High basketball coach Billy Montgomery. “We lost a giant.”
Visitation will be Friday from 5-7 p.m. at First Baptist Church Bossier with the funeral at the same location at 11 Saturday morning.
As the head coach at Bossier High, McConathy led the Bearkats to the school’s first state boys basketball championship in 1960. One of his players during his tenure at Bossier was George Nattin, one of the greatest in Bossier Parish history.
“He was just an exceptionally good coach,” Montgomery said.
McConathy was a longtime superintendent of Bossier Parish schools and one of the driving forces behind the creation of Bossier Parish Community College.
He was a star basketball player at Northwestern State, then known as Louisiana Normal, from 1947-1951 and was the fifth pick in the 1951 NBA Draft.
“We have lost a great one,” NSU President Dr. Jim Henderson, the former Chancellor at BPCC, said in a statement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Mike and Connie and the entire McConathy family. The impact of John McConathy on athletics, and on Northwestern State, cannot be overstated.
“He personifies the best characteristics and values of our greatest generation. We all can learn from the example of the Godly life he gave us.”
Henderson’s late father, Clem, was the head basketball coach at Fair Park and a contemporary of McConathy’s.
“A few years ago, I brought my father to a function where he saw Big John for the first time in decades,” Henderson said. “They shook hands and warmly embraced each other, but their eyes betrayed that competitive fire, still burning some 50 years after they last met on the court. In moments like that, you just watch quietly knowing you are in the presence of greatness.”
Jap Gullatt was the head boys basketball coach at Haughton High from from 1967-74.
Gullatt, 81, starred at Simsboro High and went on to play at Louisiana Tech. He wasn’t old enough to play against McConathy in high school but he knew of his reputation as a player at Bryceland.
“He was a tremendous competitor, very confident,” Gullatt said. “I remember him well. He was an outstanding player and a very, very keen competitor.”
Gullatt said McConathy carried that competitiveness into his coaching career.
“He was an outstanding coach,” Gullatt said. “He was just very demanding and very dedicated to being highly competitive.”
Gullatt later became principal at Platt Elementary and then took over for McConathy as business manager at the Central Office when McConathy became assistant superintendent.
“We had a good relationship,” Gullatt said. “He sort of mentored me. He was just like a big brother to me.”
Gullatt said he and McConathy used to play one-on-one basketball games after work at Airline, sometimes before administrative meetings, renewing a NSU vs. Tech rivalry. McConathy’s competitiveness was still evident.
“It was like hand to hand combat,” Gullatt said. “It was petty rough. One day we were playing and there was a guy playing on the other end. He stopped and came down and watched us. He stopped us and said, ‘What are you guys doing this weekend?’ We said, ‘Why do you want to know?’ and he said, ‘I’ve entered a team in an independent tournament and wanted to know if ya’ll wanted to go play with us.’ ”
McConathy, known as “Mr. John” “Big John” and “Hound,” was the patriarch of a large family.
Hs son Mike has been the head men’s basketball coach at NSU for 16 years. Before that, he was a longtime head coach at BPCC. Mike’s younger brother Bill was a coach at Bossier High and assistant men’s basketball coach at BPCC.
McConathy’s grandsons Michael and Logan McConathy and Paxson Guest all played at Northwestern State.
Another grandson, Airline senior Jacob Guest, was a standout guard for the Vikings. Grandson Kyle McConathy, an eighth-grader, was the quarterback on the successful Cope Middle School team along with being a basketball player and track athlete.
McConathy is a member of the NSU Long Purple Line and the N-Club Hall of Fame. He also competed in track and field at NSU.
He was the second of three brothers who became basketball stars at NSU. His older brother J.L. preceded him in death, while his younger brother George lives in Sailes, La. All three brothers are in the N-Club Hall of Fame.
John McConathy came to Louisiana Normal in 1947, leaving the family farm near Bryceland in rural Bienville Parish to follow the path of his older brother. McConathy hitchhiked to Natchitoches, was told by legendary coach H. Lee Prather that no basketball scholarship was available for him, but stayed around and was able to join the team several days later.
A 6-foot-5 forward, McConathy played 67 games at NSU and scored 1,092 points for an average of 16.3 points per game. During the 1950-51 season, he scored 35 points against Centenary and Southern Mississippi.
The McConathy brothers teamed up on the 1948-49 squad that is considered Prather’s finest, going 23-5 and reaching the NAIA Tournament semifinals.
In 1951, John McConathy led the team in scoring with a 21.6 per game average. His 562 total points set a single-season record that lasted for eight years. He was named an All-American following the season, the third Demon to earn that honor.
McConathy was drafted fifth by the Syracuse Nationals and played one season for the Milwaukee Hawks. His career was interrupted because he had to return home to National Guard meetings during the Korean War period.
McConathy’s No. 14 Demon jersey was brought out of retirement for four seasons when Michael began his playing career in 2006-07.
McConathy was an educator in the Bienville and Bossier Parish school systems for 31 years, first as a teacher and coach and then as Bossier High’s assistant principal.
After serving as business manager and assistant superintendent, McConathy was elected superintendent of Bossier Parish Schools in 1971. He retired in 1983.
McConathy served as Past President of the Louisiana Association of School Business Officials, Louisiana Association of School Superintendents and the Fourth District School Superintendents.
Surviving are McConathy’s wife of 61 years, Corene, along with a daughter, Melinda Guest of Bossier City, and sons Pat, of Bossier City; Bill, of Haughton; and Mike, in Natchitoches. There are 11 grandchildren. Already there are seven great-grandchildren.
The family suggested memorial contributions to causes dear to McConathy and his family:
The Demons Unlimited Foundation for the John and Corene McConathy Men’s Basketball Scholarship, 468 Caspari Street, Natchitoches, 71497, online via www.nsudemons.com/mcconathyscholarship
The Northwest Louisiana Fellowship of Christian Athletes Sports Camp for Junior High-Senior High Student-Athletes, online at nwlafca.org
The First Baptist Church of Bossier City, Freedom Fields.
— Russell Hedges, firstname.lastname@example.org
(Northwestern State Sports Information Director Doug Ireland contributed to this report.)