So, what's the cost of being fired from your last job and being surrounded by talk of losing your program? Seems Ben Howland just found out.
The former Pitt coach left the Panthers to take one of the highest profile jobs in the country at UCLA. Howland had instant success but despite winning regular season games, failed to get to the second weekend five straight years after a couple of Final Four appearances, missing the tournament in two of his last four years. Coupled with a negative Sports Illustrated article, it was enough to get Howland the boot.
After taking two years off, Howland is finally back in coaching ... at Mississippi State.
To his credit, he is being paid handsomely - surely a prerequisite for him going there. Howland reportedly received a max four-year contract (the most allowed for state employees in Mississippi) and will earn an average of a little more than $2 million per season. That figure is only slightly less than the reported $2.3 million he was going to get in 2013-14 at UCLA before being fired.
The more interesting fact, of course, is the destination. Mississippi State is a major-conference program, but hasn't had real success in quite a while. The Bulldogs haven't been to the NCAA Tournament since 2009 and are fresh off three straight losing seasons. At Mississippi State, Howland faces a somewhat similar rebuilding job like the one he encountered in coming to Pitt.
And, I mean, it's Mississippi State. That's no offense to the Bulldogs, but considering where Howland took Pitt and then what he experienced at UCLA, it's a tremendous step down in terms of profile. Instead of games at MSG and storied Pauley Pavilion, Ben will be coaching in Starkville and its population of about 25,000 people.
None of that is to suggest he won't succeed there. In fact, if I were a betting man, I'd certainly come out on the side that says Howland will turn things around there. He just wins. His landing spot, though, is clearly an interesting one when you consider where he came from.
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