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When Mike Howland met with his St. Viator players to let them know he would no longer be their coach, it was “very emotional.”
But Howland, who is moving on to the college level to become part of the Missouri State basketball coaching staff, was following his dream.
“I’ve always wanted to wake up in the morning and be a basketball coach and that be my job,” says the 33-year-old Howland. “I love it at Viator, but this is a dream for me. I wasn’t sure how or when it would happen, but I have wanted to get into college coaching. This is a great opportunity for me.”
Howland, who had a terrific run at St. Viator as head coach over the past three seasons, will be head coach Paul Lusk’s Director of Basketball Operations at Missouri State. The Bears, who play in the Missouri Valley Conference, finished 20-13 last season.
Howland is excited about the opportunity to be a part of a college basketball program he believes in and for the chance to be “full-time basketball.”
“I just really enjoyed the time I spent with Paul [Lusk] while I was down there for my interview and during the talks we’ve had on the phone,” says Howland, who did not know Lusk prior to the interview process. “I think he has a great thing going, a program that’s on the rise. He took and saw me for who I am and for what I was worth, which I appreciate.”
The decision to leave a place Howland was so familiar with and a team he knows so well wasn’t easy. Howland spent eight years as an assistant coach to Joe Majkowksi before taking over as head coach in 2011.
“It’s tough,” Howland admits of his departure from the school he starred at and graduated from in the 1990s. “I’ve known this group of seniors since they were in 7th grade, so it was a tough day telling them and very emotional.”
Howland took over in 2011 and promptly led the Lions to a school record 25 wins. He followed it up with two more 20-plus win seasons, finishing with a three-year record of 69-19 and three straight regional championships.
St. Viator returns star Roosevelt Smart, veteran point guard Mark Falotico and sharpshooter Pat McNamara this year.
“I’m happy for whoever does get the job because they are going to get a great group of kids to work with,” says Howland. “I’ve had great players at Viator, and I’ve been just a small piece of it. But I think this team is going to do some great things this season.”