Alumnus Ben Howlett was introduced today as the 16th head men’s basketball coach at West Liberty University. The announcement was made by WLU President Dr. Stephen Greiner, who was joined by co-interim athletic directors Lynn Ullom and Roger Waialae at the morning press conference.
“We’re pleased and excited to introduce Ben Howlett as our new head men’s basketball coach this morning,” Dr. Greiner said. “After more than a decade playing and coaching under Jim Crutchfield, who better to take the reins of our program than a man who has learned from the best? Ben’s an outstanding young coach who knows the players, knows the plays and knows the system. He will be a great representative for our university.”
The 30-year-old Howlett has spent the past six seasons as the lead assistant coach under former head man Jim Crutchfield. An outstanding recruiter who also filled key roles in game preparation and player development, he helped lead the high-powered Hilltoppers to six straight NCAA Division II Tournaments, five Sweet 16s, four Elite Eights, two Final Fours and the 2014 national championship game.
“I want to thank President Greiner and the administration,” Howlett said. “This is a special day for me because West Liberty is a special place for me. I have the utmost respect for this university and our basketball program. Between playing and coaching, I’ve spent 11 years on this campus and they’ve been the best 11 years of my life.
“It’s a challenge to follow in the footsteps of a legend like Jim Crutchfield but it’s also a tremendous opportunity. I’m not Coach Crutchfield and I won’t try to be but we’ve spent a lot of time together on and off the court over the years and I can’t begin to tell you how much I’ve learned from him, not just about basketball but about life.
“That’s a big reason I wanted this job. We have a great group of guys coming back who know the system, believe in the system and have had success in the system. We will play as hard as we can at both ends of the floor for 40 minutes every night. That’s what West Liberty basketball is all about and I can promise you that will not change.”
West Liberty averaged more than 30 wins a year (184-21, .898) during Howlett’s six seasons as an assistant. During that time, WLU players earned 24 Conference Player of the Week Awards, 9 first-team All-Conference selections, 4 Conference Player of the Year Awards and 4 Atlantic Region Player of the Year Awards.
Alex Falk, Cedric Harris and Seger Bonifant were consensus first-team NCAA Division II All-Americans with Falk being named the 2013 NCAA Division II National Player of the Year and Bonifant earning back-to-back National Player of the Year honors in 2015 and 2016. Current WLU All-MEC and All-Region standout Dan Monteroso was a first-team NCAA Division II Academic All-American this season – the fifth straight year West Liberty has produced at least one Academic All-American.
Howlett was a standout guard on four consecutive 20-win teams under Crutchfield from 2005-09. He was the nation’s fourth-leading scorer (23.0 ppg.) as a senior and finished his career ranked among the school’s Top 15 all-time scorers with 1,663 career points while shooting nearly 60 percent from the floor.
He stayed on campus as a student assistant during the 2009-10 season, helping guide the Hilltoppers to a Top 10 national ranking and their first WVIAC championship in 50 years, before spending the 2010-11 campaign as an assistant coach at Ohio Valley University. Working primarily with the guards, Howlett helped OVU rank fourth in the 15-team WVIAC in assists before accepting Crutchfield’s offer to return to his alma mater as an assistant coach.
“I’ve known Ben since he came here as a recruit and have been tremendously impressed by his competitive drive and work ethic both as a player and a coach,” Ullom said. “He has been intimately involved in all aspects of our program and I’m confident that will be greatly beneficial in making a smooth transition into a bright future for West Liberty basketball.”
A native of Marietta, Ohio, Howlett is single and resides in West Liberty. Visit Hilltoppersports.com for all WLU sports news.