Mississippi State made quick work in hiring its next men’s basketball coach.
The Bulldogs reached an agreement with former UCLA head coach Ben Howland on Monday to take the position vacated when Rick Ray was fired after three seasons on Saturday.
“I’m just so humble and grateful to be the new basketball coach at Mississippi State university,” Howland said in a release. “I’m elated and excited the opportunity build a consistent winner here at State. I know we have some of the greatest fans in the country and I look forward to making them proud of our team and our efforts. Hail State.”
ESPN’s Jeff Goodman reported that the parties have agreed on a four-year deal. The university did not release the terms of Howland’s contract but is expected to during a 2:30 p.m. press conference today.
Howland made $2 million annually during his tenure at UCLA. Ray’s salary was $1 million and had two years remaining on his contract. State director of athletics Scott Stricklin stated Ray is owed a portion of that salary.
Howland has been out of coaching and working as an analyst for NBC Sports the past two seasons after being fired following UCLA’s Pac-12 Championship and NCAA Tournament appearance in 2012-13.
The 57-year old sports a 401-206 record in 19 seasons as a head coach at Northern Arizona, Pittsburgh and UCLA. Howland led each of those programs to the NCAA Tournament including three consecutive Final Four appearances with the Bruins from 2006-08.
Howland has earned Coach of the Year honors in the Big Sky, Big East and Pac-12 conferences.
The Santa Barbara, Calif., native guided UCLA to the 2005-06 national championship game. Howland has led 10 teams to the Big Dance, won eight regular season conference championships and four conference tournament titles.
MSU has not made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2009.
“We have a coach who is a proven winner that’s taken three schools to the NCAA Tournament,” Stricklin said. “Ben is someone who is ready to invest in the people of Mississippi and Bulldogs everywhere, while bringing championship basketball back to the Hump. Mississippi State basketball can compete at the highest level, just as several of our other teams have done in recent years, and I’m excited to have coach Howland lead us back to that level.”
The Bulldogs went 2-0 against Howland on the court defeating him at Pittsburgh 66-61 in the second round of the 2001 National Invitation Tournament and also 72-54 at UCLA in the John Wooden Classic in 2010.
Howland lettered as a guard at Weber State from 1978-80 and played one year professionally in South America.