CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- University of Charleston men's basketball coach Mark Downey has accepted the same position at the University of West Alabama, a public Division II school in Livingston, Ala."I just thought it was best for my family," Downey said. "It was a deal where [officials at UWA] knew what I'd done before, when they were in the same conference as Arkansas Tech."West Alabama came calling and we liked it. It's a small town, but is a public school. We just felt comfortable there."Downey took over at UC when Greg White resigned after the 2009-10 season. His Golden Eagles went 15-13, 26-7 and, this past season, 19-9. His 2011-12 team finished second in the West Virginia Conference.
The coach, however, found most of his success at Arkansas Tech, which recently left the Gulf South Conference, where UWA remains.Downey's most recent UC team defeated the nation's No. 1 Division II team, West Liberty, on Jan. 15. The Golden Eagles, though, went 7-7 the rest of the season. Then, at the end of April, three of Downey's best players - Terrell Lipkins, Robbie Dreher and Quincy Washington - were arrested for robbery and subsequently kicked off the team.That led to scrutiny and what Downey called "a new list of values and guidelines to follow." On Friday, though, the coach said the incident had nothing to do with his decision."It didn't," he said. "Not at all. That was just an unfortunate incident."Downey said part of the reason he moved to Charleston was to move close to his mother, who has since moved to Arizona. Downey's wife Ericka, however, has family in Arkansas and the move to Livingston "cuts the trip in half.""I want to thank UC," Downey said. "I'll miss Charleston. We loved it here. The kids went to good schools. My wife had a good job. I had a good job. In the end, I just felt this was the right thing to do."UC representative Scott Castleman, speaking on behalf of athletic director Bren Stevens, said the search for Downey's replacement has already begun. A listing has been posted on the NCAA's Market website."We haven't discussed a timetable," Castleman said, "but we'd like to get someone as soon as possible, with school a month away. That said, we want to make sure it's the right person."There should be a lot of interest. Coach Downey did a terrific job."Among the early list of possible candidates are Delta State head coach Jim Boone (Winfield native) and assistant Chris Richardson (Charleston); WVU Tech's Bob Williams; East Tennessee State assistant and former Mountain State University coach Bob Bolen; Austin Peay assistant and former Tennessee-Martin head coach Bret Campbell; former Downey assistant Kurt Young, now a top assistant at Northern Kentucky; Fairmont State assistant Paul Molinari; and Mars Hill coach Rick Scruggs, who was the head coach at Gardner-Webb and then an assistant at Appalachian State.Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.