Tech’s McConathy retires after 23 years as NSU basketball coach

by Doug Ireland, Shreveport-Bossier Journal

One of Louisiana Tech’s finest athletic heroes has hung up his coaching whistle.

Mike McConathy, whose basketball playing days at Tech from 1973-77 rank among the elite in the program’s history, retired Monday at Northwestern State as the winningest coach in Louisiana collegiate basketball history.

The announcement came in a press release from the university Monday afternoon. A press conference is scheduled Tuesday at 10 a.m. on the court in Prather Coliseum in Natchitoches. The public is welcome to attend, entering on the east side of the arena.

The decision, said McConathy, was entirely his.

“I’m at peace with it,” he said. “I’m going to miss coaching something fierce. But God’s got a plan and I’m just going to follow a different path. I’ve been incredibly blessed and I’m deeply grateful.”

McConathy, 66, steps away as the winningest college basketball coach in state history, with a combined total of 682 victories in 39 seasons, 16 (1983-99) starting and building a powerhouse program at Bossier Parish Community College in his hometown of Bossier City, and since 1999 at his father’s alma mater, Northwestern State.

Along with three NCAA Tournament appearances, seven Southland Conference championship game berths, two outright Southland regular-season titles and the most significant victory in more than a century of athletics at Northwestern – the 2006 NCAA Tournament upset of 15th-ranked Iowa – McConathy brought immense value to the university, community and region.

McConathy’s teams have graduated almost 90 percent of their players. He was named a “Pillar of the Game” for education by the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Community engagement and service has been a cornerstone of NSU basketball under his leadership. McConathy himself, staff and players were often seen doing landscape maintenance, trash pickup and other projects, along with making school visits and taking part in civic events and projects.

He was a high school All-America player at Airline High School in Bossier City, recruited by power programs including LSU and Oklahoma. He chose Louisiana Tech and became one of the Bulldogs’ all-time greats, averaging 21 points in 98 career games, leading Tech to a 1976 Southland Conference title.

McConathy, known as “Opie” since his boyhood for his red-headed, freckled resemblance to the character played by Ron Howard on “The Andy Griffith Show,” was a three-year All-Southland pick and the league’s 1976 Player of the Year as a junior. He averaged 27.5 points as a senior. Signed by Scotty Robertson, he played his career at Tech under Emmitt Hendricks. His brother, Bill, followed a couple years later.

He is in the Louisiana Tech Athletic Hall of Fame, the Louisiana Association of Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame, for his playing accomplishments, and the Ark-La-Tex Museum of Champions and NSU’s N-Club Hall of Fame for his career achievements including coaching.

He and his wife, Connie, are Tech graduates. Her father, Dr. Leo Hermann, was a longtime geology professor at Tech. Coach McConathy’s son, Michael, owned and operated a home supply business in Ruston in recent years.

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