This afternoon, it became official that former UCLA and Pittsburgh head coach Ben Howland would be the 20th Head Coach of Mississippi State Men’s Basketball. With his wife and daughter, Howland came into a Humphrey Coliseum that was teeming with excitement. As he, his family, and MSU Athletic Director Scott Stricklin came onto the court as the Famous Maroon Band played “Hail State”, those in attendance stood and applauded the entrance of the newest Head Coach.
When Scott Stricklin was introducing Ben Howland, Stricklin stated that he knew Howland from his days at the University of Kentucky. He also talked about how he admired Coach Howland’s work ethic and coaching philosophy. Then he went on to say that there was no doubt in his mind where the MSU coaching search would begin, and that was Ben Howland. The two discussed over the phone multiple times on Saturday and Sunday, then both met in Atlanta on Monday to finalize the deal. Once Howland and his family came to Starkville, they spent the evening with Mississippi State President Dr. Mark Keenum and his wife for supper.
Howland came to the podium with raucous applause and cheering from the Mississippi State faithful. The first thing he said was how overwhelmed he was at the amount of people who came out for the announcement. He stated that he was proud to be coaching for the flagship institution in the state of Mississippi. He also stated that Rick Ray recruited high character players that would be model citizens for the University and team.
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Moving on to the on-court production, Coach Howland stated that “no one is going to play harder than Mississippi State,” and “no one is going to be better prepared,” than our team. Echoing old-school basketball clichés, Howland stated that he was a firm believer that defense wins championships. Though he did state that the offensive side of the ball would not be neglected either. Howland told the crowd that every offensive possession will start by pushing the ball up the court as quickly as possible. Then, if the Bulldogs have to go into a half-court set, then he expects execution and unselfishness by the team.
Coach Howland also said that he is actively working on getting one of the best coaching staffs in the country here in Starkville. By using this coaching staff, he is excited to start tapping into the “hotbed of talent” in the area. Howland says the goal of the program is to get back to the Final Four, like the team did under Richard Williams in 1996, who was in attendance. He also recognized Bulldog great Bailey Howell, and offered a moment of jest as he told Howell that his Celtics team ruined Howland’s childhood as a Lakers fan when the Celtics would consistently defeat the Lakers in the finals.
Howland said that he was excited to get to know the local high school and AAU coaches in the area, building relationships to bring in highly-touted recruits into Starkville. He said that the key to getting good recruits into Starkville was to provide a huge home atmosphere.
“You don’t have to go very far in history to remember the Hump being one of the toughest places to win in the SEC,” he stated.
When meeting with Dr. Keenum, it was made clear to him that one of the major things he had to do as a head coach here was to “beat Ole Miss.” That received a massive response from the fans, and certainly made many others happy.
If you wish to watch the press conference in it’s entirety, it is available on WatchESPN here.