ESPN's Jeff Goodman reported Sunday afternoon that Ben Howland is in the pole position to be the next head coach of Mississippi State basketball.
Ben Howland has emerged as the frontrunner and is in discussions to take the Mississippi State job, sources told ESPN.— Jeff Goodman (@GoodmanESPN) March 22, 2015
Howland, who last coached UCLA, taking the Bruins to the Final Four in 2008, would provide a much different direction than the last time the Bulldogs made a basketball coaching change. That last change saw an assistant coach take the reigns at Mississippi State after Rick Stansbury was relieved of his coaching duties.
Without a doubt, there is pressure on Scott Stricklin to make a solid hire for the position given how things sorted out with Rick Ray. With much of the fanbase clamoring for a proven head coach, hiring Howland could make many of the fans happy.
However, some fans may feel concern at the situation given the way Howland, according to a Sports Illustrated article, handled Reeves Nelson at UCLA. The article claimed that Nelson bullied many people and even went as far as to try to intentionally injure teammates. Worse, the article claimed that Howland looked the other way at this behavior, a charge that UCLA and the coach denied. Some Mississippi State fans may worry that this sounds too much like Renardo Sidney and Stansbury.
On the positive side, Howland is a coach that has taken three programs to the NCAA tournament, including taking UCLA to the Final Four. Additionally, Howland turned around Pittsburgh and UCLA in quick fashion after taking over both programs when they were in a state of struggle, a more than fair description of Mississippi State basketball right now.