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Mike Howland is leaving home.
The St. Viator boys basketball coach, who led his team to 69 wins in the past three seasons, told his team Monday that he was leaving the Arlington Heights school.
Howland will become an assistant coach at Missouri State University, where he will be the Director of Basketball Operations. Missouri State plays in the Missouri Valley conference and was 20-13 last year with a bid to the College Insider Tournament.
"It was a tough tough day yesterday," said Howland, who met with his team on Monday. "It is very emotional to me with this group. I have known some of these kids since seventh grade and we have all been looking forward to this senior year."
Howland met with Missouri State head coach Paul Lusk, who is in his fourth year as head coach of the Bears, and the hiring process went very quickly. Howland spoke with his wife Shannon, who was 100 percent behind the decision.
"Paul is a great coach," Howland said. "He gave me a real honest look. To get my first opportunity under a guy like him is very exciting."
Howland starred at St. Viator, where he was an all-area guard and graduated in 1998. After graduating from DePauw, Howland returned to the school where he was an assistant coach under Joe Majkowski for eight years. When Majkowski retired from coaching three years ago, Howland was the school's first choice.
"Leaving here is the real hard part," said Howland, who is 33 and has been a part of St. Viator as a player or a coach for 15 of those years. "I was one of those little kids running around there because I had three older sisters who were at the school. It is hard to leave the community. And I love all the people so much. They have become like family. The place has been so good to me."
St. Viator assistant athletic director Mike Manno said hiring Howland was an easy call three years ago.
"He was our first choice," Manno said. "He still had to go through the process but we knew what we wanted. He knew X's and O's as well as any coach I have known. He deserves the opportunity that he has received. Missouri State got a gem."
Howland had immediate success after taking over the reins from Majkowski.
His first team went 25-4 and won the regional title. The following season the Lions were 21-9. They captured the East Suburban Catholic title while again winning a regional title.
Last year, the Lions again had a huge year, going 23-6. They won their third consecutive regional title before bowing out to eventual third-place finisher Stevenson in the sectional semifinals.
While Howland, who built a 69-19 record, was looking forward to this season where he returned area standout Roosevelt Smart, a healthy Mark Falotico and 3-point ace Pat McNamara, there was still something missing.
"As hard as it is for me to walk away, I am happy for the guy coming in," Howland said. "It will be a fantastic season for St. Viator."
Manno said the announcement was a shock to all the staff and players.
"It took us all by surprise," Manno said. "I knew this was a dream of his, but it is still sad to see him go. He took it to another level. It is not easy to follow a hall of fame coach and he did a great job.
"His work ethic will pay dividends, and he has a passion for the game. You can tell that by how hard our kids played."
New St. Viator athletic director Marty Jennings will open up the hiring process in the next few weeks, Manno said.
"The new coach will have big shoes to fill," Manno said.