Downey said he also understood the remaining UC players would also suffer, despite no wrongdoing. He pointed to guys like Xavier Humphrey. He hailed Tino DiTrapano as a fine student, a "success story," and a better team representative.
"You know, here I was building a team around Lipkins and Dreher," said the coach. "I was moving Lipkins off the ball. Dreher had come on the last five, six games. I thought those two would have really good seasons this year. I felt if we just could find a point guard ...
"Now, beyond being hurt image-wise, our team has to recover."
"Almost every day I'm reminded of what happened," he said. "I wanted to visit the people hurt in the [robbery]. That was frowned upon. It was thought maybe it would be taken the wrong way.
"I remember back on Jan. 15. We'd beaten No. 1 West Liberty. We were breaking into the national rankings. We'd won 26 of our last 30 games. We were the hottest team in the conference, if not the nation.
"Then we fell off to finish 7-7. I was still thinking, 'Hey, if we just get the right people in here ...' Then this happened."
"All of a sudden our program was labeled," Downey said. "And it's not that way. A few made bad decisions. I haven't tried to hide that. I've been very open with recruits. We hit [the situation] head-on. We got rid of those guys.
"Yes, I felt sorry for myself. But after two days of that, I said, 'That's long enough.' I jumped into recruiting."
Downey said all 17 seniors he coached at Arkansas Tech were graduated. He said at UC, he's 9 of 11 and "wearing out" the other two to finish.
There has been support for Downey, including from UC president Ed Welch.
"Even he said this [kind of incident] has never been in my background," said the coach. "This has never happened before on my watch. The new [recruits] are going through a pretty extensive background check though. We have a new list of values and guidelines to follow, although most we already did. We want student-athletes to know what we're about and what we do."
Downey said he was also "overwhelmed by text messages and Facebook messages."
"It made me feel good that people know me," said the coach. "It really helped me. They told me to keep my head up and things will work out. I think it will."
Indeed, every storm eventually passes.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvin...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.