As long as Ron Hunter was at IUPUI, Louisville native Todd Howard was at his right hand. For sixteen years, Howard has served as associate head coach, and for six seasons prior he was an assistant, making him the longest tenured assistant/associate coach in the Summit League by a wide margin. In that time, he was been recognized by Hoop Scoop and Fox Sports as one of the top assistant/associate coaches in the 25 mid major conferences.
Current recruits, the future of IUPUI basketball, are in agreement about Todd Howard. I was able to catch up with Marcellus Barksdale, a senior at Tates Creek High School (Lexington, Kentucky), was initially worried when he heard about Hunter leaving. However, his worries were put to rest after a few phone calls.
"I talked to Coach Howard, Lyonell and Jordan and well all seemed optimistic about the situation. We all have a great relationship with Coach Howard and really want him to get the job. He deserves it. If he gets the job, I will most likely stay. Nothing is set in stone for sure though, so I will have to see how it all plays out."
While things aren't absolute, doing anything to endanger the future of the program would be completely insane.
The recruits aren't the only ones asking for Todd Howard to take over at the helm. Current players are calling for the promotion as well.
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Christian Siakam, whose breakout season made him a crowd favorite and "cult" hero, was extremely concise in his support for Coach Howard. "Coach Howard is probably the best fit for the job.. He has been here for a long time and will continue the IUPUI tradition."
He's not the only current player pushing to keep Howard. Dayton transfer Stephen Thomas has been tweeting like crazy, saying things like "got to get Coach Howard hired" and "all I have to say about this situation is #hirecoachtoddhoward."
In a text message to Student On Sports, Thomas went into his feelings a little more. "Coach Howard's a great all around person. He is the first guy to reach out to me when I was transferring and all the guys like him...We are all really comfortable with him plus he knows his stuff. I think we all want him."
Even former players are completely behind the idea of promoting Todd Howard as well. George Hill, undoubtedly the best player ever to lace up for the Jaguars, said in a tweet "...wishing Todd Howard Gets the Head Coaching job Well Deserved!!!!!"
Finally, Ron Hunter was extremely clear in his feelings about who should take his former job. In his initial interview with Jeff Rabjohns (Indianapolis Star) about his new position, Hunter pointed to Howard as the clear choice. In a radio interview on ESPN's radio affiliate in Indianapolis AM 1070 The Fan, Hunter told "JMV" over and over Howard would be the best and only option for the future of the program. (Ron's tone was one that suggested his former associate had already taken the position...Obviously he hasn't, but that was the tone.)
If there is one thing everyone in the IUPUI community seems to agree on, it's who should be the next head coach. But the Athletic Director Mike Moore has declared a national search for the position. The only hesitation I could think that would be slowing the search is if Howard indicated he would be going with to Georgia State, but according to my sources only one coach could leave, and it is definitely not him.
My major concern is Moore going for a home run coach rather than the obvious choice. The last thing a program like IUPUI could handle is a new face that changes everything, even if they have a name people might recognize. There has got to be continuity and, as Christian said, someone to preserve the tradition of IUPUI basketball. Who better to do that than the man who has been helping cultivate those traditions than a man who has been there from the beginning?
Another worry I have is the time it took for the women's coach to be replaced. Shann Hart was under investigation for months before the athletic department and IUPUI's Chancellor Charles Bantz decided to let her go. A decision wasn't made until late September, far too late for many. The university absolutely cannot take months to decide who will be the next coach.
A quick, easy decision can be made, or a long, drawn out process can await us. But I think the choice is an obvious one:
HIRE TODD HOWARD.