Howland Knows How to Land the Real Blue Chips

It has been said that you can tell a lot about a man by the woman he marries. Earlier this week, Mississippi State athletics director Scott Stricklin introduced Bulldog fans to their new men's basketball coach, Ben Howland. The Maroon and White faithful get Howland's Final Four experience and on the floor acumen, but it appears that the Bulldog family scored a stellar pairing with Ben and wife Kim

Since news of Howland's hiring in Starkville, fans have become more confident about the Bulldogs' chances of landing one of the nation's top prospects, Malik Newman. Newman, the son of former Bulldog basketball baller Horatio Webster, is a five star talent with NBA potential.

Howland and his staff visited with Newman and his family on Thursday night and it appears that things have gone well. The Bulldogs will likely get an official visit from the Callaway High All-American before he makes his college decision.

A player like Newman would hasten the Bulldog turnaround that many now expect with Howland on the Bulldog bench. Whether or not Howland can pull it off remains to be seen, but reeling in the big fish is nothing new for the veteran coach.

As a brash, sure shooting member of the Weber State basketball team, Howland set his sights on the school's head cheerleader, Kim Zahnhow. While many around him doubted his chances, Howland pulled off perhaps the greatest recruiting job of his life when he convinced the girl every guy wanted to date to be his wife.

Nearly four decades, three previous heading coaching jobs, two children and a grandchild later, one would say things have worked out well for the former Weber State on-campus power couple.

Now on a new campus, a new dream emerges as Howland looks to return Mississippi State basketball to contention for an SEC title.

While the Bulldog faithful are optimistic about the Bulldogs' chances, Kim Howland has faith in more ways than one.

"I love children," Howland said. "I have always worked with children, whether in dance of gymnastics. I am a teacher, but I am not doing that right now. I do teach Sunday school. I am not sure that there is a Child Evangelism Fellowship here. It's an after school program that I am involved with back in California. It's just really about teaching the kids about the Lord after school. I have volunteered in my friend's classroom for nine years and worked with beautiful children in special ed and I had a great time doing that."

The courtship between Mississippi State and the Howland family was a very short, but effective one. The whirlwind romance appears to suit the new first lady of Bulldog basketball just fine.

"I know that Ben has been wanting to get back into coaching," Howland said. "He loves it so much. It's just rooted in his heart. I told him that wherever he wanted to go that I would go with him and support him."

Some in the national media have taken some pot shots at Mississippi's favorite college town, Starkville, but the Howlands appear ready to make the adjustment from the Pacific Coast to the Golden Triangle.

"Santa Barbara is very beautiful," Howland said. "When I wake up in the morning and walk into my living room there is just a beautiful view of the Pacific ocean right there. It's where we are going to retire someday, so I know I have that to go back to.

"I think it's always exciting to come to a new town and check out all of the neighborhoods and all of the new houses. One of the things that I continue to hear is about the generosity and the kindness in the community here. I think that happens in small communities. I can't even begin to tell you how many people have already welcomed me and told me that they will love us and that they are so glad that we are here.

"I have to leave my kids, so it's nice to know that I have these people here who are ready to welcome us as part of their family."

The decision to leave friends and family behind is often a very difficult one, but Howland reports that seeing her husband happy made the move easier.

"Ben is just so happy," Howland beamed. "I am just so happy for him and to see that sparkle in his eye again. I am happy to see the excitement and to see him get a team going and to win again. I think those are really just the best things."

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