At 2:30 p.m. today, Ben Howland will be introduced as the new head coach of Mississippi State men’s basketball. We’ll have live updates here from his press conference.
Alright, and he’s here. Fun atmosphere as he walks out to cheerleaders, the band playing and a big crowd in The Hump. Started out by fist-bumping all the current players who are sitting on the front row.
And it looks like Scott Stricklin is going to introduce him. MSU’s athletic director says he first met Howland several years back when he was working at Kentucky and the Wildcats were in a tournament with Howland’s UCLA squad.
When the job came open at MSU, Howland was the first target he thought of.
“There was no question in my mind, there was one target we had to start with, and that was Ben Howland.”
“Mississippi State basketball can compete at the highest level,” Stricklin says. “Every single person must be on the same page and willing to do their part … That means filling up this arena and making it, once again, the toughest place to play in the Southeastern Conference.”
And now it’s time for Howland.
“My family and I are honored to be here today, so excited to become a part of this University,” he opens. “It’s an incredible honor and blessing for me.”
Howland says what impressed him most talking with Stricken was the passion and understanding of the commitment it takes to win and build a program at MSU.
As for winning on the court, Howland says, “It starts with having a constant defensive presence you count on … Offensively, we will start every possession by pushing the ball.”
“One of the things our players will understand form me as a coach is I praise unselfishness above all,” he says. “Play for your teammates.”
Howland says he met with players last night: “I was most impressed with their attentiveness, their eye contact. They were raised the right way.”
Howland says the next thing he’s excited about is recruiting. I can vouch for that, he’s been talking about it all day. Expects to have a group of assistants who will be talented in that regard.
“We’re putting together what I believe will be one of the best basketball staffs in the country.”
As for the current team, Howland says he’ll give them some more time off. He likes to give players a solid three weeks after the season is over to recover from the grind of the year.
Howland’s recruiting goal: “Bring the best players in the state of Mississippi and in the south to Mississippi State.”
“I’ve seen the support at Davis Wade Stadium and I know it is the envy of programs around the country,” Howland said. “I am in awe and have extraordinary respect for what Dan Mullen and his staff have done here at Mississippi State.”
Howland on Dak Prescott: “He really embodies the type of player I want for our basketball program. He inspires people … I’m excited to watch Dak become the first Heisman Trophy winner in the state of Mississippi.”
Howland: “We’re going to do special things to reach out to our students and to our fans. We want you to know our important you are to what we are doing.”
Last night, Howland had dinner with President Mark Keenum and his wife. Loved the family. “The main thing Dr. Keenum told me: you must beat Ole Miss.” Got a good reaction from the crowd on that one.
Pretty emotional moment there as Howland introduced his wife and daughter. Got choked up and had to pause. He’s a big family guy, said that was one of the things he really liked about MSU the more he learned the last few days.
We’re on to the question-asking portion of the press conference. First one about recruiting.
“I’m excited to recruit the south,” Howland said after listing several southern players he’s recruited and signed before. “I’m looking forward to make that homeless in terms of recruiting.”
Howland took his recruiting test this morning (stayed up until 2:30 a.m. studying for it) and says he got every question right. He’s already started calling recruits.
“This is my fourth head-coaching job, and I know, this will be the best I’ve ever done.”
Why MSU? “I think there’s tons of potential here, and the leadership is so good.” Loved the family values and opportunity to play in the SEC. Mentioned facilities, as well.
Howland says he was in his living room this weekend watching tape of MSU’s games this season. “We have some pieces to work with.” Likes having the group of seniors back, as well.