The Mississippi State Bulldogs wasted no time filling their head coaching vacancy, as they are reportedly agreeing to terms with former UCLA Bruins head coach Ben Howland. Since the firing of Rick Ray a few days ago, the Bulldogs had always been set on bringing Howland aboard a program that has endured three consecutive losing seasons.
“Because of the respect I have for Rick, I wanted to believe he could get us where we wanted to be,” Bulldogs athletic director Scott Stricklin said. “But as time passed, I had less confidence that was accurate. When you get to that point, it’s probably best for all concerned that you try a different direction.”
During Howland’s tenure at UCLA, he accumulated a career record of 233-107 while leading the Bruins to three straight final four appearances. Despite winning the Pac-12 title in 2012-13, the athletic department decided to relieve Howland of his duties, opting to kickstart the program’s move into the next chapter. Since then, Howland has been out of basketball for two years, working for Fox Sports 1 as a college basketball analyst in the meantime.
Some may wonder how this marriage came about, but the relationship makes more sense than it may appear on the surface. While coaching at UCLA, the program was sponsored by Adidas. Like the Bruins, Mississippi State is also funded by the shoe and apparel company, once again enforcing the idea that strong sponsor ties can heavily influence an employment agreement at the college level.
The Bulldogs have a strong and proud tradition of winning in March and are not content with their current standings in the SEC. After Auburn brought in head coach Bruce Pearl, Mississippi State recognized they needed to make a splash in the coaching staff in hopes of returning the Bulldogs back to their former glory. Howland is their guy and Bulldog fans can’t wait to see if his former success will carry over into a weak Southeastern Conference.
*Section Photo credit to Getty Images; Featured Photo (above) credit to Brendan Maloney, USA Today Sports