Tech Tidbits: A Meaningful Date on the Calendar

Mark Downey 1-21-2021
Mark Downey, Arkansas Tech head men's basketball coach, visits with his team during a January 2021 game at Tucker Coliseum.

There’s something about Jan. 23.

It was on that date in 2010 that Mark Downey walked out of the tunnel at Tucker Coliseum and was greeted by 4,122 fans, the largest crowd to ever attend an Arkansas Tech University men’s basketball game. They were there to watch a top-10 showdown between the ATU women and Delta State University followed by the Wonder Boys’ first-ever game as the No. 1 team in the nation.

The crowd went home happy following an Arkansas Tech sweep.

Eleven years later, early in the first season of his second stint as head coach at Arkansas Tech, Downey encountered a seemingly empty Tucker Coliseum on Jan. 23, 2021. The Wonder Boys were preparing for a rematch with a University of Arkansas-Monticello team that had brushed ATU aside 78-65 in the Great American Conference opener on Jan. 7.

And even though no fans were allowed in the building due to COVID-19 restrictions, Downey felt the presence of one very important supporter: his late father.

You see, Jan. 23 was his birthday.

And this time around the Wonder Boys got the win over the Boll Weevils, defeating UAM 65-64 in overtime.

“Last time I was here (at Arkansas Tech), my dad had just passed away,” said Downey during the post-game interview. “He was looking after us today. It’s his birthday. Happy birthday, dad.”

On May 17, 1967, blues musician Albert King stepped to a microphone in a Memphis, Tenn., recording studio and sang the following line:

“If it wasn’t for bad luck, I wouldn’t have no luck at all.”

The Arkansas Tech Golden Suns basketball team knows how Albert felt.

Five consecutive Golden Suns’ opponents have been unable to take the floor due to COVID-19 issues. As a result, Arkansas Tech’s women will have been idle for 16 days when they finally return to action on Saturday, Jan. 30.

The Golden Suns (5-0 overall, 4-0 GAC) will face Southern Arkansas University for a 2 p.m. GAC contest at the W.T. Watson Athletic Center in Magnolia. Radio station KCJC 102.3 FM and will provide live coverage. A men’s game between ATU and SAU will follow at approximately 4 p.m.

Talk to you on the radio.

Tech Tidbits is a column written by Sam Strasner, ATU director of university relations and radio play-by-play voice for ATU football and basketball.