Mississippi State and former UCLA head coach Ben Howland are putting the finishing touches on a deal that would make the 57-year old the Bulldogs’ next head basketball coach, multiple sources told CBSSports.com.
The deal is expected to be officially completed by Monday barring any last-minute snags. Terms have yet to be disclosed.
One source called the deal “imminent.”
Howland has been out of coaching the past two seasons, but led the Bruins to the Pac-12 regular-season title during his last season in Westwood in 2013. He took the Bruins to three consecutive Final Fours from 2006-08 and has taken three different schools to the NCAA Tournament during his coaching career. Howland coached at Pitt and Northern Arizona before taking the UCLA post in 2003.
Mississippi State’s decision to hire Howland would have a similar impact in the SEC to Auburn’s hiring of Bruce Pearl a year ago. Like Pearl, Howland is a proven winner who immediately gives the Bulldogs’ program credibility after failing to make the NCAA Tournament since 2009.
Howland was selective in his decision to return to coaching over the past two seasons and passed on several offers to return, but Mississippi State gives him an opportunity to return to a power conference in a league that is relatively wide open on annual basis except for Kentucky.
The Bulldogs fired Rick Ray on Saturday after three seasons in which Ray went 37-60 overall and 13-41 in SEC play.
Gary Parrish reported interest between the two sides on Sunday.