How will Howland fit at Mississippi State?
Over the weekend Mississippi State made the surprising and somewhat controversial decision to fire basketball coach Rick Ray. Clearly Bulldogs AD Scott Stricklin had this in mind for a little while because he moved quickly to hire Ben Howland on Monday. In terms of basketball this is a homerun hire for Mississippi State. Howland is as proven a winner as there is in college basketball outside of the current crop of Hall of Fame coaches. In Howland’s 18 seasons as a head coach from Northern Arizona, to Pittsburgh, to UCLA he has been to the NCAA Tournament 10 times, and made it to three Final Fours when leading the resurgence at UCLA. Aside from the success in terms of results, Howland is considered an excellent X and O coach and someone who also has proven he can recruit different parts of the country. At UCLA he landed top talent from the West Coast, and also dipped into Atlanta and New Jersey. While at Pittsburgh he seemed to have a pipeline from New York City. That will be important for Howland because now at Mississippi State he is going to have to recruit a whole different area. Look for Howland to add Korey McCray to his staff. McCray is someone with a ton of ties in the city of Atlanta, and was on staff for Howland at UCLA. McCray was instrumental in landing Tony Parker and Jordan Adams for the Bruins. Putting together the rest of the staff will also be interesting to monitor. Landing five-star and Mississippi State legacy Malik Newman is considered a must by some. Will Howland try to hire Newman’s father, and former Mississippi State star, Horatio Webster is a major question that has already been asked on behind the scenes. Also interesting will be how Howland can keep the current recruiting class together. Quindarry Weatherspoon is a top 100 kid who committed to Ray, and is someone who has a ton of ability. Also former commitment D’Marcus Simonds would likely re-look at Mississippi State now that a coach is in place. Those two kids were big pieces to the future when Ray locked in their commitments. If there is one question about this hire it will revolve around his personality and fitting in, in the Deep South. At times Howland’s brashness rubbed people the wrong way in Los Angeles. Despite being a native of the West Coast, Howland definitely has the type of personality that is more associated with people from the East Coast. Adjusting that some and putting together a staff that knows the lay of the land in the Deep South is going to be important for the success going forward at Mississippi State. Overall Howland is considered one of the top teachers of defense in the coaching profession. His teams almost always play tough on that end of the floor and he knows how to make things work. With the athletes at his disposal in the Deep South, it could be an excellent fit, if the players are willing to buy in to what he wants to do. There is no doubt that Howland has a winning pedigree. He has 399 career victories and a .685 winning percentage. Now he just has to make sure to get his feet on the ground in a new area, and make sure he fits in with the culture in the Deep South. If he does, success might not be too far behind for Mississippi State.
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