After being named interim women's basketball coach in June, Northwest Mississippi Community College has officially promoted former assistant Troy Howell to the head coaching position, officials announced Friday afternoon.
"I want to thank our supportive college administration for having the faith in me to lead this great program," Howell said. "This is a wonderful opportunity to be the head coach at a place that I love very much. I hope to continue the success and build on the winning tradition that is already in place here at Northwest."
Serving as the Lady Rangers' assistant coach under Don Edwards, Howell has helped Northwest to a 103-70 overall mark, a 57-39 MACJC North Division record and five postseason appearances.
Howell previously served in other roles at Northwest, including a one-year stint as the assistant men's basketball coach during the 2011-12 season and as the head coach for both men's and women's tennis programs from 2013-17, before the sport was discontinued after the 2017 season.
Howell's hire is also a significant one for Northwest, as he becomes the first African-American head coach in school history.
"We are excited to remove the interim tag from Coach Howell and we look forward to watching him lead our women's basketball program to new heights," Northwest athletic director Brian Oakes said.
Northwest missed out on the postseason for just the third time in Howell's eight seasons last year. A season prior, the Lady Rangers finished 13-11 overall, 8-4 in the north, and advanced to both the MACJC and NJCAA Region 23 Tournaments.
The Lady Rangers finished as north division runner-up in 2014-15 and 2015-16 and won the title during the 2012-13 season. Northwest won 16 games in 2015-16, finished as division runner-up, was nationally-ranked and advanced to both the MACJC and NJCAA Region 23 Tournaments.
Twenty-one players have continued their careers at the four-year level under Howell's watch, including Kayla Bradley (Arkansas-Monticello), Chrissah Shaw (LeMoyne-Owen), Ciara Pettis (Philander Smith), Averyale Joy (Freed-Hardeman), Destiny Gardner (North Alabama/Virginia Union), Janesha Johnson (University of Charleston), Kelsey Brown (Belhaven University), Aspriona Gilbert (Delta State), Jacquelyn Brooks (Delta State), Bethany Lytle (Union University) and Sara Lytle (Union University) from the past six seasons.
Not only have the Lady Rangers performed on the court, but they have done it off the court as well. Northwest posted a school-best 3.69 team GPA during the 2018-19 season to be recognized as an All-Academic team by the MACJC, NJCAA and Women's Basketball Coaches Association.
Prior to Northwest, Howell spent five seasons as the head women's basketball coach at Rust College, a former NCAA Division III member (non-scholarship) that competed in the Independent Southeast Region.
Prior to Rust, Howell was a teacher and coach at Wooddale High School for one season and also spent a year at White Station as the head coach of the varsity girls' team and as an assistant coach on the track team. His first collegiate coaching job was an assistant on the Southern Mississippi women's basketball staff during the 2003-04 season.
A familiar face around Senatobia, Howell was a physical education teacher and coach at Senatobia High School from 1993-2002. He led the Warrior boys' basketball team to a division and district championship in 2002, boys' tennis team to a state title in 1999 and softball team to a state title in 1995.
A 2001 graduate of Northwest, Howell received his bachelor's from the University of Memphis in 2003, where he also served as a manager on the women's basketball team.
Brian Lentz is Sports Information Director at Northwest Mississippi Community College.