Head Coach Ben Howland
In three different stops as a head coach, Ben Howland has established himself as a proven winner en route to leading his teams to the NCAA Tournament. Entering this third year in Starkville, he’s on track to return Mississippi State back to the postseason.
On March 23, 2015, the highly-respected Howland was introduced as the 20th head basketball coach in school history.
Now in his 22nd season roaming the sidelines, Howland, 59, owns an overall coaching record of 431-239 with stints at Northern Arizona (1995-99), Pittsburgh (2000-03) and UCLA (2004-13).
In his first season in Starkville, he guided the Bulldogs to an 14-17 record and produced the fourth-best recruiting class in the country.
Under his tutelage, forward Gavin Ware was named third-team All-SEC, while newcomer Quinndary Weatherspoon was named to the SEC All-Freshman team before being tabbed preseason second-team All-SEC in October of 2016.
In year No. 2, the Bulldogs improved to 16-16 and advanced to the second round of the SEC Tournament.
Quinndary Weatherspoon showed great progress en route to earning second-team All-SEC honors, while Lamar Peters was named to the SEC All-Freshman team.
Entering season No. 3, excitement is high as traditionally it’s the third year he lands his team in the NCAAs.
He’ll have experience, starting with Weatherspoon, who in October was named second-team preseason All-SEC.
“I am impressed with Coach Howland’s resume,” MSU president Dr. Mark E. Keenum said. “He has been successful at the highest levels of college basketball, and I have every confidence he will bring that same proven, winning formula to Mississippi State as well.”
In 10 seasons at powerhouse UCLA, Howland led the Bruins to the NCAA Tournament seven times, highlighted by three-consecutive Final Four appearances (2006-08) in addition to four Pac-10 regular-season crowns (2006, 07, 08 and 13). He was the Bruins’ first coach since the late John Wooden to win three-straight conference titles (2006-08), and is the only head coach other than the legendary Wooden to have led UCLA to three consecutive NCAA Final Four appearances.
In 2005-06, Howland’s UCLA team advanced to the championship game – its first since winning the 1995 NCAA title – where it lost to Florida. The Bruins recorded 32 victories that season, tying the then-school record of 32 wins set in 1995.
During his illustrious tenure in Los Angeles, Howland compiled a 233-107 record (.682 winning percentage), including a 121-59 mark in conference play. In his last nine years, the Bruins finished in the top three of the conference standings an impressive seven times.
In his 21-year career as a head coach, Howland has led his teams to the NCAA Tournament 10 times and to the “Sweet 16” five times, in addition to the three Final Fours at UCLA. He has been a Conference Coach of the Year in three different leagues – 2006, Pac-10 Coach of the Year at UCLA; 2002, Big East Coach of the Year at Pittsburgh; 1997, Big Sky Coach of the Year at Northern Arizona.
30 Wins Again
In 2008, Howland became one of three coaches in NCAA Division I history to win at least 30 games in three consecutive seasons, joining Adolph Rupp (Kentucky, 1947-49) and John Calipari (2006-08). His 97 victories from 2006-08 stand as the most by any UCLA head coach in a three-year span.
During his tenure at UCLA, Howland had a Pac-12 best 18 players selected in the NBA draft, a total that ranked in the Top 5 nationally. The Bruins’ 13 NBA draft selections ranked among the Top 5 nationally from 2004 through 2013.
Prior to his stint at UCLA, Howland spent four seasons building the Pittsburgh men’s basketball program into one of the finest in the nation, compiling an 89-40 ledger from 2000-03. His final two seasons, he guided Pittsburgh to a 57-11 mark, logging an 83.8 winning percentage that ranked second nationally during that period.
The Panthers reached the “Sweet 16” both years and captured the 2003 Big East Tournament crown. In 2002-03, Howland led Pittsburgh to a 28-5 overall record and a No. 4 ranking in the final Associated Press poll. Pitt held the nation’s No. 2 ranking for eight weeks during the season.
In 2001-02, Howland guided Pittsburgh to a school-record 29 wins, surpassing the former school record of 25 victories set in 1973-74. He became the first Pittsburgh head coach in 26 years to garner National Coach of the Year honors as he earned nine coaching awards including the Associated Press, Naismith, Henry Iba and the Sporting News national accolades, along with Big East Coach of the Year honors.
First Gig As Head Coach
Howland’s first head coaching gig was at Northern Arizona, where he orchestrated one of the best turnarounds in NCAA history. His highly successful five-year tenure (1995-99) saw him transform the Lumberjacks from one of the nation’s weakest programs into a consistent NCAA Tournament contender.
In his final season (1998-99), NAU posted a 21-8 record, its third-consecutive season with 20+ wins. Howland’s first two teams at Northern Arizona finished 9-17 (1994-95) and 7-19 (1995-96), finishing in seventh-place each season. However, his 1996-97 squad went 21-7, set the school-record for wins and achieved the 10th best single-season turnaround in NCAA men’s basketball history.
Northern Arizona captured the Big Sky regular-season championship by three games and advanced to the National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
Howland was named the conference’s Coach of the Year.
First NCAA Appearance
The following season (1997-98), Howland guided the Lumberjacks to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history after capturing the Big Sky Tournament championship and second straight regular-season title. In a first-round NCAA Tournament game against No. 2-seed Cincinnati, Northern Arizona led the heavily favored Bearcats for the majority of the game before losing, 65-62, on a last-second three-pointer.
Howland earned his bachelor’s degree in physical education from Weber State (1979) and a master’s degree in administration and physical education from Gonzaga (1981).
Howland and his wife, Kim, a former Weber State cheerleader, have two children – Meredith and Adam – and two grandsons, Benjamin Clark Howland II and Eli, the sons of Adam and his wife, Brittney.
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