When he left Northwestern State In March as the winningest college basketball coach in state history, Bossier City native Mike McConathy wasn’t sure what the future held.
Three months later, he’s considering scratching an old itch. McConathy, who counts Louisiana Political Hall of Famer and longtime influential state legislator Billy Montgomery of Haughton among his primary mentors, is considering running for the state Senate in a redesigned district spanning parts of 10 parishes in northwest Louisiana.
With the anticipated revamp of Senate District 31, incumbent Sen. Louie Bernard of Natchitoches announced last week he will not seek a second term. Bernard previously served 24 years as Natchitoches Parish Clerk of Court and after over 40 years of public service, the still energetic 71-year-old said he’s going to serve out his term until 2023 and enjoy family life.
McConathy grew up with a first-hand perspective on public service. His father, John McConathy, was the Bossier Parish Superintendent of Schools for 20 years and later was a key collaborator in the development of the modern Bossier Parish Community College campus between U.S. 80 and I-20 in Bossier City.
Among his accolades, the former NSU coach is enshrined in the university’s Hall of Distinguished Educators for his service as a faculty member at Northwestern, and in 2012 he earned an elite Pillar of Education award from the National Association of Basketball Coaches for leading the Demons’ program into continuing educational outreach in area schools. His program was noted for its wide-ranging community service endeavors, and its academic performance – a remarkable 90 percent of his players earned degrees at NSU.
“This is something that has been on the back of my mind for quite some time, because I’ve known people who have served and are serving in Baton Rouge who have made a tremendously positive impact for the people they represented, and for the entire state, for that matter,” said McConathy.
“When Louie made his announcement, I had quite a few friends suggest I ought to consider this. I’m now in the process of visiting with people who have a real understanding of political life and public service,” he said, “along with many dear friends and most of all, my family members, so I can make the best possible decision for all concerned.”
The new District 31 has roughly 70 percent of its population located in Bossier, Caddo, Natchitoches and Sabine parishes, with portions of Webster, Bienville, DeSoto, Red River, Rapides and Winn included. That fits the geographic footprint which was the base of McConathy’s recruiting area and team rosters from 1999-2022 at NSU and for 16 years previously at Bossier Parish Community College.
“Some people might wonder how my career in coaching would translate to serving in Baton Rouge in a legislative body, in the political arena. In coaching, to succeed you have to nurture relationships with a variety of people from high school and college students, to colleagues and opponents, throughout a campus community and a fan base with avid alumni of all ages and backgrounds. You have to listen, you have to be responsive, you have to collaborate, and at the same time, you cannot compromise your values and your integrity.
“We all know politics can be a tough business to navigate, now more than ever. Heck, I’ve spent over 40 years trying to find middle ground with the referees,” he laughed. “As long as we understand each other, we can find paths to the best possible outcomes.”
McConathy said if he runs, he would do so as an independent, not affiliated with a political party. The only announced candidate so far is Shreveport Republican state Rep. Alan Seabaugh, who has served in the state House since 2010 but is term limited there.
Photo by CHRIS REICH, Northwestern State