Longtime NSU coach Mike McConathy named LABC’s Mr. Basketball

The McConathy family’s relationship with college basketball in Louisiana is a decorated one that stretches back nearly a century.

Appropriately, the Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches announced Tuesday it has added to the family’s lineage, naming longtime Northwestern State and Bossier Parish Community College coach Mike McConathy the recipient of its 2023 Mr. Basketball Award.

McConathy and the rest of the annual award winners will be presented their honors May 6 in Baton Rouge at a 6 p.m. banquet that is held in conjunction with the LABC’s annual convention.

Known as a program builder with a Midas touch, McConathy started the BPCC program from scratch and turned it into a National Junior College Athletic Association national tournament participant. He became Louisiana leader in coaching victories during his 23-year tenure from 1999-2022 at Northwestern State where he added 330 of his state-record 682 wins.

“It is an honor to be able to build things and place confidence in young men at institutions where people believed in you,” McConathy said. “Sometimes it meant a sacrifice on a young man’s part, because he may not have played as much as he would have at other places. The end result is (Northwestern State) did things that had never been done before – we went to the NCAA Tournament and won games there.”

McConathy took the Demons to three NCAA Tournaments (2001, 2006, 2013), making history by defeating Winthrop, 71-67, in the 2001 play-in game – the first of its kind. Five years later, he and his Demons authored one of March Madness’ signature buzzer-beaters as Jermaine Wallace’s corner 3-pointer capped a 64-63 upset of No. 3 seed Iowa in which NSU trailed by 17 with less than 10 minutes remaining.

McConathy’s family legacy and his ties to the LABC made this year’s recognition special for the longtime coach, whose honor comes a year after retired Northwestern State sports information director Doug Ireland was named the LABC’s Mr. Basketball. In addition to being a longstanding member of the organization, McConathy was the group’s president for the 2003-04 organizational year.

McConathy’s father, John, and two of his uncles played at Northwestern State before Mike McConathy and his brothers, Pat and Bill, played at Louisiana Tech with Mike becoming the Bulldogs’ second-leading scorer at the end of his career (2,203 points) and an honorable mention AP All-American. Mike McConathy’s sons, Michael and Logan, played for their father at Northwestern State. Factor in Mike McConathy’s time at BPCC and his longstanding ties to numerous LABC founding fathers and the ties grow deeper.

“I think of this as more of a celebration of our family,” McConathy said. “It dates to the 1940s when the first McConathy in our immediate family came to Northwestern. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in the (LABC) and in the same company as Don Landry, Benny Hollis, Emmett Hendricks, Dale Brown, Larry Little, Riley Wallace, Fred Hobdy, Ben Jobe and Tynes Hildebrand. The great part about the LABC is it ties in all the schools. You take the Billy Allgoods, the Gene Rushings, the Roman Bankses, Tommy Smith, David Francis. The tie-ins with all those coaches is really an amazing thing.”

McConathy’s victory total and championship banners are just two of the tangible products of his three-plus decade career as a collegiate head coach.

The rest can be seen in the careers his former players entered following the end of their playing days – an accomplishment McConathy draws more appreciation for than his on-court accomplishments.

“I have looked back and thought about the fact we were able to accomplish a lot on the floor, but it was more important to put them in position to earn their degree,” McConathy said. “We had a graduation rate of around 90 percent. I go back and look back at my JUCO guys who played and how well they have done in society whether it is in coaching just holding down a job. Their formative years in junior college were so important to them.”

(McConathy is the father of Minden resident and business owner Logan McConathy.)