Mississippi State has fired basketball coach Ben Howland according to multiple media reports and confirmed by CBS Sports. The development concludes a seven-year run for Howland, who amassed a 134-98 (59-67 SEC) record with one NCAA Tournament appearance.
Sources told Matt Norlander that Mississippi State has been working backchannels for weeks in setting up interviews for Howland's successor, with initial candidates including San Francisco's Todd Golden, UAB's Andy Kennedy and New Mexico State's Chris Jans, all of whom are coaching in the NCAA Tournament.
The Bulldogs were picked to finish eighth in the SEC this season and expected to compete for an NCAA Tournament bid after returning star guard Iverson Molinar and landing a quality transfer class headlined by former North Carolina forward Garrison Brooks. But the program's 8-10 SEC record this season was exactly the same as last year's mark.
Howland previously coached at Northern Arizona, Pittsburgh and UCLA. He guided the Bruins to the Final Four in 2006, 2007 and 2008 and won four Pac-12 titles in 10 seasons in Westwood. But the 64-year-old was never able to replicate that success after replacing Rick Ray at Mississippi State in March 2015.
His 2019 team reached the NCAA Tournament as a No. 5 seed but was upset in the first round by Liberty. He finished seventh-or-worse in the SEC in six of his seven seasons and never cracked the top three of the league standings. However, Mississippi State's three consecutive seasons of 20+ wins from 2017-19 marked considerable progress from where the Bulldogs were upon Howland's arrival.
The Bulldogs are entering a crowded coaching market that includes SEC peers Florida, Missouri, South Carolina and LSU. Georgia already fired Tom Crean and hired Mike White from Florida.