A SPECIAL HONOR FOR A SPECIAL ASSISTANT
Written by Mairead Scanlon & Dan Campagna
His coaching peers describe him as dedicated and inspirational. His players say he is well-respected and loyal. But when longtime Emmanuel College women's basketball Assistant Coach Arthur Howell was asked how he'd describe himself, he smiled sheepishly and said, "It's never been about me. It's always been about the team."
In the late 1980's, Emmanuel College Head Coach Andy Yosinoff was running a practice in the old EC bandbox of a gymnasium when one of his former players, Lesa Dennis, connected Yosinoff with his future assistant. Yosinoff recalls that Howell was playing basketball in the "tiny little gym" when they first met and a few years later, Howell was hired to start the beginning of his 26-year run (and counting) as the Assistant Coach of the Emmanuel women's basketball team.
While Yosinoff's resume is one of the most highly decorated in the nation, Howell's been there for just about all those milestones and has many achievements and recognitions of his own. This includes the recent announcement that he'll be inducted into the Assistant Coaches Hall of Fame by A Step Up, Inc. in the inaugural class.
This is the first Hall of Fame that recognizes assistant coaches from the NCAA's Divisions I, II, and III levels. The 2019 induction class also includes the likes of UConn's Chris Dailey and Notre Dame's Carol Owens, legends among the coaching industry. Howell will be the only Division III Women's Basketball Coach inducted on Tuesday May 7, 2019 during the Symposium's Legends Breakfast at the downtown Sheraton Hotel in Atlanta, Ga.
The great news about his induction broke shortly after the Saints had captured the program's 16th Great Northeast Athletic Conference championship in late February. Yosinoff wanted to throw a big party for his coaching counterpart but Howell politely declined saying, "I want the players to enjoy this championship run as much as I am. It's all about them right now.
So, a party never happened but nobody was surprised because Howell didn't want a celebration back in 2015 when he was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame. His quiet and reserved demeanor compliment the highly energetic and eccentric persona that Yosinoff displays night in and out.
Since Howell joined the EC staff, the Yosinoff-Howell coaching duo has led the Saints to an impressive overall record of 565-185 (.753). This includes 16 NCAA tourney appearances which encompasses three appearances in the Sweet Sixteen, two trips to the Elite Eight, and one very special appearance in the Final Four.
The Saints' trip to the Final Four took place back in 2001, the same year that Emmanuel College became a co-ed institution. A huge underdog in the Elite Eight round, Emmanuel upset NYU in overtime, 74-70, to advance to the Final Four. At the time, NYU was the largest private school in the country.
"That was a fun run and a special memory," said Howell about the Final Four experience. He also pointed out how that team didn't have the current gym, the student body was about 400 students, and everyone pulled together as a team and believed in each other.
Although Howell said this was a special memory, he also said that there have been so many great memories and teams over the years that he can't pick one over the other.
Yosinoff describes Howell as, "an invaluable member to the team. He is great at figuring out how to beat teams and is the best at finding weaknesses in opponents that some other people can't spot."
While Yosinoff attributed a lot of the team's success on the court to Howell, he also expressed how Howell is a huge supporter of everyone off the court including Yosinoff, his family and the players.
"He's not only been an amazing assistant coach, he's also one of my best friends," said Yosinoff. "He is invaluable in supporting me and he had a very close relationship with my father when he was alive. He is a part of our family.
According to Yosinoff, Howell is a "quiet comedian," but when it comes to games, he is very intense. Fellow Assistant Coach Meghan Kirwan agrees and talked about Howell's quiet yet powerful presence and coaching techniques.
"He really is the heart of the team," said Kirwan who played for Howell for two seasons and has now coached with him for five. "He may not say much but he is so involved in everything. He is on top of everything and he does a lot of the little things, a lot of the behind the scenes stuff that people don't see."
"He is so involved in the program and just women's basketball in general - the guy can tell you every stat of any Emmanuel player he's coached, he could tell you every win or loss of any Division III opponent going back 20 years. He knows it all, is so gritty and pays attention to all of it. You can just see his dedication, it is special. His heart is so into it because he is paying attention to every little detail that goes on," said Kirwan.
Howell's love for the game of basketball is clear. The only thing he may love more is seeing his players succeed off the court.
"Winning is great but seeing all my former players give back to society, that's what it's all about," said Howell. "Being involved in basketball is not just about the game itself but is also about the game of life.
While Howell has assumed many roles over the years as Assistant Coach, he believes the most important one is making sure each player improves as an individual on and off the court. He pointed out that he likes how his players take academics seriously because their futures are more important than sports.
"At Emmanuel, our players really embody the idea of being a student-athlete," said Howell. "They always put the student before the athlete which is exactly how it should be.
Howell also discussed the profound impact the players have had on him.
"I'm a father so I look at them as my own kids," said Howell. "I've learned so much from them, probably more from them than they've learned from me. They've taught me how to be a better father, a better all-around person, a better human being. It's special."
Special. Something better, greater, or otherwise different from what is usual.
Thanks, Arthur, for being such a special part of the EC Women's Basketball family and congratulations on your induction into the Assistant Coaches Hall of Fame. A well-deserved honor for a truly special coach.