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Basketball is one of Mike Howland's biggest passions.
So is coaching. And so is St. Viator High School.
Put all three together and you have Howland's dream job. The one he got Friday and was announced by Viator on Monday.
The guy who ran the Viator show on the court as a two-time Daily Herald All-Area point guard now gets his shot to show he can run his alma mater's varsity program.
Howland, who spent the last eight years as an assistant coach, takes over for Joe Majkowski, who retired in early April after 24 seasons.
"For me it's like being at home," said Howland, who helped Viator win its only varsity boys basketball conference title in 1997 as a junior. "It's close to my family and friends and I like the community.
"The stars kind of aligned perfectly. It would have been weird to be at some place other than Viator. I love the place and love the community."
And it was clear the school loved turning the successful program over to Howland, who was among 30 applicants and six interviewees.
"When you hear him talk, he has great enthusiasm and great passion for not only St. Viator but for the basketball program," said Viator athletic director Tim Carlson, who also played against Howland at now-shuttered Holy Cross. "He's been around it and he's got a lot of vested interest in it as a coach and the years he spent in the program as a player."
Howland went from Viator to a stellar four-year career at DePauw University in Greencastle, Ind. As a freshman one of Howland's runningmates in the backcourt was a senior named Brad Stevens, who has become a big name by leading Butler to consecutive NCAA runnerup finishes.
But after graduating, Howland decided to take a year away from basketball. All that did was rekindle his passion for the game.
"I felt I was definitely missing a piece of my life," Howland said. "I knew right away I needed to get back in the game. It wasn't the worst thing in the world because I realized how much I loved the game."
He talked to Majkowski about coming back and started as a volunteer. Eventually he became the top assistant and played an integral part in the Lions' most successful season with a school-record 24 wins and trip to the Class 3A supersectional in 2010.
"That made it even more fun for me," Howland said. "I got the itch to be a head coach and have much more responsibility. It also allowed me to figure out how to run an entire program."
Now it's Howland's turn to continue what Majkowski built with a 367-280 record that also included a 2001 regional title.
"One of the things he talked about in the interview process was doing it the Viator way," Carlson said. "Play hard, play smart and be disciplined on and off the court and serve the community."
The Viator way will also be the way Howland wants to play. Suffice to say there won't be a lot of clock-milking which Howland once referred to as boring by St. Joseph the night the Lions clinched the East Suburban Catholic Conference crown in 1997.
"I like to play fast, and I don't think that comes as a surprise," said Howland, who averaged 20 points a game as a senior. "That's how I played growing up. Kids like to play that way and that's how we're going to play."
They'll also have to play defense. And Howland has already showed as an assistant he will be demanding and said "my big thing is how hard are we going to play and how tough are we going to be.
"If we want to consistently win championships we have to increase our mental toughness. I'm going to get that message across in practice."
He knows he's entering a good situation with all-area guards D.J. Morris and Kevin Walsh leading an experienced group of returnees to go with an infusion of talented underclassmen.
And one other perfect part is Howland's job as a commodities trader gives him the flexibility to get to Viator whenever he wants.
"To do what I really love to do which is coach," Howland said. "It fits really well."
In this case, it all fit perfectly for Mike Howland.
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