Demons make historic hire with new hoops coach

By DOUG IRELAND, Journal Sports

The last two years have been good for Missouri State basketball and especially for Corey Gipson’s coaching career.

A 40-18 mark for the Bears, following relative mediocrity for most of the last decade, has restored some of the luster to an accomplished Missouri Valley Conference program. Gipson, Missouri State’s associate head coach for the past six years, reaped the rewards Monday when he was announced as the new head coach at Northwestern State.

It was a landmark hire, in the wake of the departure of iconic 23-year head coach Mike McConathy, whose exit was announced last Monday. New NSU athletics director Kevin Bostian promised and delivered on a lightning-quick search for a successor, with the decision made Sunday evening and announced in mid-afternoon Monday.

Gipson replaces the winningest men’s or women’s coach in Louisiana college basketball history. The transition not only ushers in a new approach in the basketball program, but brings NSU its first African-American head coach in a major sport.

The 41-year-old has been coaching on the college level since 2007, but has not been a head coach at any level. He comes to Northwestern after spending seven years on the Missouri State staff. He was named associate head coach 11 months after joining the Bears’ staff.

They snapped out of a barely-break even stretch with a 17-7 finish in 2020-21, then made their first postseason trip since 2014 and first appearance in the National Invitation Tournament since 2011, finishing 23-11 this season.

In that 17-7 year, Gipson and the Bears lashed the visiting Demons in Springfield, Mo., 94-67. That appears to be his only connection to NSU until recently.

He was a point guard for two seasons at Austin Peay in the Ohio Valley Conference, helping the Governors reach the 2003 NCAA Tournament as a junior. That is the only time he’s reached the Big Dance. A native of Sikeston, Missouri, Gipson played junior college ball at Three Rivers Community College in his home state.

His coaching career began at Division II Virginia State, recruiting players who won a 2007 conference championship. He worked at UNC Greensboro, in Bostian’s hometown, from 2009-12, the last two years as associate head coach. Gipson then moved to Austin Peay as an assistant before taking the Missouri State post, where he worked for two different head coaches and was the only staff member retained in the transition.

Dealing with potential attrition, and also adding players through the portal, were primary factors in Bostian’s rapid timetable. NSU’s roster is filled with underclassmen led by first-team All-Southland Conference center Kendal Coleman, the Captain Shreve product who entered the portal last Monday and reportedly has about three dozen offers including from Oklahoma and Marquette.

Gipson will be introduced to the media and NSU supporters at 10 a.m. Wednesday at a news conference in the Lucille Mertz Hendrick Room (Room 121) inside the Friedman Student Union on the Northwestern State campus.

In the NSU athletic department’s announcement Monday, Gipson was appreciative.

“This is very humbling, first and foremost, to be able to take the helm of a program with so much history and tradition,” said Gipson. “My family and I are elated to be going to a historic community and a program where coach McConathy has built such a great legacy. He paved the way for me and my family to come in and have a chance to push that legacy forward. It is an opportunity we do not take lightly. We see it as a privilege.”

“As we went through the search process, it was clear Corey possessed all the qualities we desired in a coach,” Bostian said. “We look forward to him building upon the great legacy coach McConathy built here at Northwestern State. Corey has been successful at every stop in his career. He is a strong coach and recruiter, but more importantly, he has a track record of developing student-athletes into better young men on and away from the game of basketball.”

All signs point to the exit of longtime McConathy assistants Jeff Moore and Dave Simmons. Moore, associate head coach, did interview for the vacant position last Wednesday morning.