Mathew "Chic" Downing
Mathew “Chic” Downing Born: November 19, 1949 (Atchison, KS)
Graduated: Atchison High School, 1968; Benedictine College, 1972
When the topic of basketball in Atchison, Kansas, arises, there is one name and person who the conversation soon centers on. How could it not? With nearly four decades on the hardwood in Atchison, Mathew “Chic” Downing is undoubtedly the King of Basketball in the northeast Kansas community.
Downing accomplished nearly everything on the basketball court in Atchison and today, that dedication to his community along with his triumphs as a player and coach, lead him to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame.
It all began for Downing as a high school player for Atchison High School from 1964 to 1968. Named to the All-State team as a senior in 1968, Downing had a knack for scoring the basketball, as evidenced by his 49 point performance against Topeka Seaman that same year.
His scoring prowess continued to the next stage in his career when he chose to stay in Atchison to attend St. Benedict’s College (which would merge with Mount St. Scholastica College to form Benedictine College in 1971) and play for legendary Raven coach and 2004 Kansas Sports Hall of Fame Inductee Ralph Nolan. Downing left the Raven program four years later after re-writing the school’s record book and becoming the program’s most decorated player.
Downing was already an outstanding player when he stepped onto campus but he improved every season while at Benedictine. Recognized with NAIA All-America honors every year in college, Downing’s career culminated with a first-team NAIA All-America selection following his senior season in 1972. In doing so, Downing became the school’s second player to earn such honors and no Benedictine player has earned the honor since.
As a Raven, Downing put up staggering numbers. His 2,042 career points placed Downing first in school history, a record that still stands over forty years after it was set. In addition to scoring, Downing left the school second on the all-time rebounding list with 1,158, first in single season scoring with 662 points in 1972, first in season scoring average with 25.5 in 1972, and third in single season rebounds with 337 in 1972.
Downing’s performance was good enough to get him selected in the eleventh round of the 1972 National Basketball Association Draft by the New York Knicks. After playing in the Knicks farm system one season, Downing returned to Atchison where he began teaching and was named an assistant high school coach in 1973.
Just two seasons later, Downing was named the head coach of Atchison High School and a dynasty was in the making. Downing guided the Redmen to a third place state finish in his first season as coach. It only took Downing one more year to win his first state championship in 1976. Downing went on to win three more state titles in Atchison and made an astounding ten state tournament appearances during his seventeen year coaching career. His teams never finished worse than third in all ten state tournament appearances. Downing was named the Kansas Basketball Coaches Association Coach of the Year in 1985 and 1988. During his coaching career, Downing compiled over 250 wins to go along with his four state championships.
While Downing coaching career was taking off in the late 1970s and early 1980s, he spent his summer times on the slow pitch softball fields across the country. A perennial slow pitch softball all-star, Downing was named the United States Specialty Sports Association (USSSA) Slow Pitch Softball Most Valuable Player of the Year in 1979. Downing’s contributions to slow pitch softball were recognized with his inductions to the Kansas Amateur Softball Association Hall of Fame in 1995 and the USSSA Slow Pitch Softball Hall of Fame in 2015.
Not only did Downing excel as a player and coach, putting Atchison basketball on the map, but he is also the patriarch of a continuing legacy of Downing family basketball dominance. Downing’s sons and grandsons have carried his legacy over the last twenty-five years at Atchison High and across the nation and it is a rarity to see an Atchison team without some family connection to Downing.
Today, that legacy is honored with Downing’s induction to the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame and the King of Atchison basketball adds another jewel to his crown.