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College basketball: Former UC coach Downey accepts assistant’s job at Bowling Green

Morgantown native and former University of Charleston men’s head basketball coach Mark Downey is on the move again.

This time, he’s headed back to the Division I ranks.

Downey, who spent one season at Division II West Alabama following a three-year stint at the University of Charleston, has accepted an assistant coach’s position under Chris Jans at Bowling Green State University.

Downey worked with Jans at Independence Community College in Kansas.

“He’s like a mentor to me,” Downey said in a phone conversation while pulling into Bowling Green, Ohio, with a suitcase full of clothes. “We kept in contact and became really good friends. It was an honor when he called and offered me the job. He’s seen a lot of places, met a lot of people and has an extensive rolodex. I really trust him, he’s a good coach and he’s going to do really well.”

Jans was named head coach at Bowling Green in late March, replacing Louis Orr, the Falcons were 12-20 last season. Jans spent the last seven seasons as an assistant at Wichita State, including the last three as associate head coach. During that time, the Shockers reached the NCAA Tournament three times, including a No. 2 national ranking and No. 1 seed in this year’s tournament. This year, Wichita State became the first team in NCAA history to open a season with 35 consecutive victories.

He was head coach at Independence Community College in 1998-99 when Downey served as his assistant. The Pirates finished 22-10 that year and were second in the Kansas Jayhawk Eastern Division with a 14-4 record. Downey took over at Independence in 1999 following Jans’ departure.

“I always thought that if I’d get the chance I’d go back to the Division I level and said I would go back with someone I knew and someone I trusted,” he said.

This will mark Downey’s third stint as a Division I assistant coach. He served as an assistant coach at New Orleans for five seasons and was the director of operations at Marshall for two seasons.

Downey spent the last eight years coaching at the Division II level, becoming the head coach at Arkansas Tech in 2006 and leading the Wonder Boys to the top of the Division II ranks in less than four years. He was named the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ Division II South Region Coach of the Year when his team made its first national tournament appearance in 2010 and was ranked No. 1 in the nation in seven of the 15 regular season polls.

He left Arkansas Tech to accept the coaching job at the University of Charleston. In three seasons with the Golden Eagles, he was 70-29 and guided UC to the NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Tournament following the 2011-12 season.

Downey then accepted the head coaching position at Western Alabama. In one season as head coach of the Tigers, he guided them to a 17-11 record.

Downer, who played his college basketball at Wheeling Jesuit and the University of Charleston, said he’s looking forward to the opportunity.

“Over the past eight years as a Division II head coach, I’ve gotten my name in a couple Division I head coaching job searches and I always came out swinging, but nothing,” he said. “I always got the same thing, Division II, Division II, Division II.

“This gives me more opportunities. I’m really excited to work with Jans again. He has the blueprint about how to make a mid-major program (Wichita State) into a high-major program. I’m excited to learn that. It’s been 15 years (since I worked with Jans). I’m excited to see what he has learned and learn myself again and get better.”

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