March 9, 2018
SUCCESS ON AND OFF THE COURT — Steve Downing, a 1969 graduate of George Washington High School, credits his teachers in IPS schools and his community for contributing to his success at all levels in his life and career.
Gratitude is what best describes Steve Downing’s outlook on education and the support he received growing up in the IPS community.
The 1969 George Washington High School graduate said he can’t place a value on the mentorship he received and how that led him to a life of success — both in basketball and in business.
Downing was a member of the Continental’s 1969 State Championship team. While at Indiana University, where he played for Bobby Knight, he received the Big Ten Conference MVP Award in 1973. He also was a center for the Boston Celtics during the team’s championship win in 1974.
Though success has followed him, Downing said none of it would have been possible without the wisdom from mentors guiding him along the way.
Here are excerpts from a recent conversation with Downing:
Early life in Indianapolis …
I grew up with 10 brothers and sisters; I was the middle child. It was a valuable (experience) growing up in Indianapolis, living in the Haughville neighborhood.
I had a great childhood and really enjoyed growing up with my family and friends. At the time, I didn’t realize I grew up in poverty. I had a wonderful time going to the park or fishing with friends; playing basketball was my favorite. The community I grew up in was full of good people. My neighbors were like family. Trouble was always around the corner, but the community, the relations with my neighbors, friends and family, helped create a positive outlook and kept me involved in positive activities.
Your experience at George Washington High School …
George Washington was mostly about athletics and opening the idea of going to college.
Basketball was my life. Most of my high school career centered around the state championship. I always looked up to Oscar Robertson and the Attucks team when they won the state championship in 1954 — that motivated me to want to play basketball and win a championship myself one day. My friends and I dreamed about winning like Oscar. Basketball was more than a sport, it brought the community together. It was all we had.
Additionally, I remember the teachers being approachable. They were supportive in furthering education beyond high school.
Fondest IPS memory as a student …
The most influential person I had as a student was my 8th-grade P.E. teacher and coach, Frank Davis. Mr. Davis pointed out my talents and abilities to help me be a better person. He was a major influence in my choosing to go to Indiana University. He put so much effort into me; he even followed me through my high school career and encouraged my parents into my college education. I admired him for always believing in me and placing an important mark in my life.
My IPS education prepared me for …
Life, because there were so many diverse ideas and people who helped my decision-making. The community was always good to me growing up. I was taught to give back and help those less fortunate. Life is about options. I try to help educate on what options one chooses to take.
Overall, my education has given me appreciation and love for IPS.
Higher Education …
I went to Indiana University (IU) which was the best decision I could have made. I majored in physical education with a minor in sociology. I also graduated from IU with a master’s degree in guidance counseling.
My life since graduating …
After earning my bachelor’s degree, I went to play in the NBA for the Boston Celtics. While playing for the Celtics, we won the championship. I loved the experience. Growing up thinking about playing in the NBA then actually having the opportunity to do so is surreal.
After playing for the Celtics for two years, I went to get my master’s degree and had the opportunity to student teach at Broad Ripple High School. Later, I reconnected with my old coach, Bob Knight, and became the assistant athletic director at IU Bloomington for 17 years. After Coach Knight transferred from IU to Texas Tech to coach, I followed as well. I was the athletic director at Texas Tech for 10 years. Finally, after Coach Knight’s retirement, I moved back home to Indianapolis and now serve as the athletic director at Marian University. I’ve been with Marian for seven years.
My family has always been my No. 1 priority. My family made so many sacrifices for me while growing up so I could play basketball. I value my family so much and am happy to see that my grandmother lived to be 106 years old.
My wife, Doris, and I are high school sweet hearts; she graduated from Washington in 1969 as well. We have been married for 42 years. We have a son, Steve Jr., and daughter, Tiffany. We have four grandchildren that run my life (laughs), two of which attend George Washington Carver School 87.
Proudest accomplishments …
I am most proud of graduating from college and having to share the moment with my parents. Being a first-generation graduate and the journey up to graduating made crossing the finish line memorable.
I am proud of winning the state championship in 1969. I was a senior at George Washington and we had an undefeated 31-0 record. Winning the BIG 10 MVP in 1973 was another honorable moment as well as getting a NBA Championship ring in 1974 with the Boston Celtics.
These are all very memorable parts of my life that I am most humbly accepting.
Besides spoiling my grandchildren, I enjoy swimming and playing tennis.
If I could do anything, I wish I could have a greater impact on young black males in Indianapolis. Mentoring to youth is what I live for and encouraging them to obtain and see the value of education and stewardship. I love Indianapolis and want to make it a better place.
Final Quote …
“You can’t let anyone define who you are. You control your destiny.” – Steve Downing