Demon coach Mike McConathy graciously shared the praise and prestige that accompanies such a monumental achievement not just with all of Natchitoches and Northwestern but with alumni, fans and friends across the region, state and nation.
This year’s electrifying team that has led the country in scoring for most of the season has dazzled large crowds at home and in other arenas and generated unprecedented attention through regular news channels, social media and other publicity outlets.
Winning the conference championship in a showdown against juggernaut Stephen F. Austin and advancing to the NCAA tourney to play nationally ranked Florida at Austin, Tex., Friday night was the culmination of perhaps the most magical season in the long history of Northwestern basketball.
It was during this season that McConathy, still considered one of the state’s greatest players ever after a brilliant career at Louisiana Tech, claimed his 573rd victory to become Louisiana’s all-time leader in career wins for college coaches. He picked up two more triumphs in the conference tournament.
McConathy’s success at Northwestern includes two trips to NCAA tournaments before this season and a pair of victories in those events, including the heart stopping last second win over Iowa in 2006 that was selected this year as the Greatest Moment in Basketball in the history of the Southland Conference.
As if capturing the 50th anniversary conference championship, getting an invitation to the NCAA Tournament, leading the nation in scoring and having McConathy become Louisiana’s career leader in victories were not enough, Northwestern also celebrated this year its 100th anniversary of basketball.
The significance of this enchanted season that included a big reunion of some of the most celebrated players in the annals of Demon basketball—including McConathy’s father and three of his uncles—seems to have provided inspiration and motivation for this year’s exciting team.
These players, who have such intense respect for McConathy as a coach and as a man, clearly grasp the magnitude of playing for a legend and at a school where basketball is so important and deeply entrenched in the heritage and culture of the university.
College basketball is not life and death despite the annual hype and hysteria of March Madness, and nobody puts the sport in more proper perspective than McConathy. His emphasis on academics and character is reflected in one of the highest graduation rates for players in Louisiana and nationwide for years.
But McConathy also instills in his players a keen awareness that passions and loyalty for Northwestern basketball extend well beyond the box seats and bleachers of buildings where the team plays to countless homes in big cities and little towns far and wide.
This year’s Demons, who have absorbed so much of the rich heritage and significance of Northwestern basketball because of the centennial and other special facets of the season, seem to sense that they are playing not just for themselves but for the thousands who have played for and supported NSU teams over the decades.
There appears to be an awareness among these players that their success is celebrated both in the arenas where they compete and by countless others who share the elation of wins and anguish of defeats as they follow the team on television, radio, computer streaming, I phone apps, Facebook, Twitter and in other ways.
The names on this year’s roster are already huge in this first century of Northwestern basketball because of the team’s success…Shamir Davis, O.J. Evans, Marvin Frazier, James Hulbin, Gary Robertson, Patrick Robinson, Gary Stewart, David Ulak, Tyler Washington, Austin Adams, Dustin Adams, Dadrian Harris, DeQuan Hicks, Matt Killian, Jalan West, Brison White, Brandon Williams.
This team has attracted a multi-million dollar avalanche of positive national attention and publicity to the university and community and generated pride and excitement for former players and their families, students, alumni and other supporters that will long remember this magnificent 100th anniversary of Demon basketball.
Demons here and across the land hope the magic of this most memorable season continues in the NCAA Tournament.