A Place of Refuge & Redemption: Basketball is MORE than a game!

By Eric Dixon

At first glance basketball is just a game, but for those who live it and love it is much more. It is a place and journey all at once. “It is my place of refuge,” states Ashley Howard, former Drexel guard and current Head Men’s Coach at LaSalle University. This “game” provides life lessons beyond classrooms and lecture halls, provides light in darkness and reveals the inner makings of people like open wounds.

Ashley Howard, La Salle Head Coach

Anyone who has ever been transfixed by the bouncing of the ball on the asphalt, mesmerized by the rhythm of ball pounding against the concrete with a tenacity and consistency born of an innate attraction to an activity that can transform, transmit and transport you to places beyond your imagination. 

The game speaks to players with a melody that, like any other music, is understood and heeded no matter the circumstance or locale. “Basketball is the universal language,” says Khalif Wyatt, a former Temple University standout and successful international player. Wyatt, a “chubby” Norristown native, followed the music from “Oak Street Park” to Champagne, France, with stops in China, Israel, and the Philippines in between. 

Temple Great, Khalif Wyatt

Basketball is a connector, it brings people together in ways that help them form lifelong bonds that endure past players’ physical ability to play the sport. Darnell Alford, a Trentonian, was a relative unknown when he was tabbed to play in the minor professional league United States Basketball League. “Played for free just to get on,” he said. Alford, a standout guard at Monmouth University, credits his relationship with Trenton natives Bryan Caver, formerly of Seton Hall, and Greg Grant, a diminutive speedster that spent 9-years in the NBA, playing for 6 different teams, with making him aware of professional international opportunities in the sport. Caver in particular took a liking to the athletic Alford, encouraging him to play in summer leagues around Trenton and prove his mettle in the sport. “He told me to just go do what I do. Just play hard to the end and don’t quit.” He did just that using the lessons learned playing in those summer leagues to hone his skills that landed him a professional gig in a top Australian Pro League for 4 years, before returning home to Trenton to take care of his young son, Darnell Alford Jr, who is now playing professionally internationally. 

Alford Sr., now works in education, teaching and coaching, imparting the lessons he learned in life to the young people he works with. “I didn’t even know playing (internationally) was a thing until I (learned it) from them”, he mused, recounting how it was the relationships that he built that helped him grow in the sport and in life.  

Basketball is a counselor and a teacher. “I felt like a fish out of water when I first got to St. Joe’s Prep,” says Howard, who was first introduced to the game as a preschooler as a ballboy at the Chaney/Sonny Hill Basketball camp when he would tag along behind his grandfather who was the camp chef. “I used ball to get me through.”  

In 1997, Howard lost his beloved grandfather and had to lean on the game and his family to cope. That experience gave him a determination to succeed, and not just in basketball. “I determined then that I was not going to be denied success in life.”  Later when he “wasn’t in a good place” after transferring to Bonner, it was again his old friend basketball that helped him maintain and flourish, finishing second in Catholic League scoring to legend Rasual Butler.

For many, basketball is merciful and presents a path to redemption, granting some second and, sometimes, third chances at success. Nafis Ricks, former Lamberton High bucket-getter, lost his bearings and it was the game that guided him back and showed him the way. “I didn’t know about the (NCAA) Clearing House,” laments Ricks, who despite being a prolific scorer his senior year (35 ppg), he was unable to overcome academic shortcomings and a lack of exposure to garner a scholarship. He attempted to shore up his academic resume at MCI, a prep school in Maine. The situation proved untenable and he ended up leaving that January. 

Disheartened and disillusioned, he put basketball down and started lifting boxes at UPS. It didn’t take long for the game to beckon him back, with his little brother providing the motivation to heed the call. He was led to JUCO standout Johnson County Community College in Kansas, where Ricks rediscovered his love for the sport and learned how to be a better leader, he landed at Missouri State University. There he decided he’d seek a livelihood in the game.

Wyatt, who credits his mother, Gail Clinkscales, with teaching him his values and brother, Aziz, and father, Vincent with providing the motivation and support he needed, didn’t even give a professional career even that much forethought. “I never really thought about it,” recalls the 2-time Isreali League Player of the Year, reflecting on how he felt during his stellar senior season on North Broad Street. “I was pretty much just focused on the game at hand, focused on the moment.” 

Wyatt says no one considered him a pro prospect in middle school. He had a “great” training camp experience with the Philadelphia Seventy-Sixers before being waived after the last preseason game. He spent very little time languishing over being cut by the hometown team. He would soon board a plane to go to the other side of the world after signing a six figure contract with the Guandong Southern Tigers within hours of being let go. He would play just one season in China before finding great success in the top league in Israel, where he won both individual and team awards, winning a championship while earning MVP honors.

Basketball can also be humbling, forcing players to put their pride aside and re-evaluate their place in the game and in life. Howard, who was dealt a devastating career ending diagnosis after his sophomore at Drexel, shared an experience that showed the importance of being humble and flexible as you go along your journey. 

Bruiser Flint and Archie Miller, Indiana Coaches

After his playing career was snatched from him, denying him the one thing that had been a constant in his world since he was a toddler, his college coach, Bruiser Flint, offered him a way to stay involved as a student coach. Howard excelled in his new role, his natural desire to teach and lead drove him to clutch the opportunity to his bosom and nurture it with the same determination and passion that made him a standout guard in high school. 

Upon graduation from Drexel, he accepted a position as a camp coach at Hoop Group’s Invitational Camp. His confidence was high going into the experience. He was ready to show his talent and acumen in coaching and training players. However, before that he needed to be humble.

“The first thing Mike Rice (camp organizer) says to me is ‘Look, we just finished up the other camp and those kids left the dorms a mess. I need you to grab a mop and a bucket and get those rooms cleaned.” Howard was surprised and confused, but he set his feelings aside and accepted the task. Within two months he went from holding a mop and bucket to the title of “Camp Director”.

Basketball can also expose us to harsh realities and how we respond in the face of such ugliness may determine where our journey may end or begin. Howard’s tireless work ethic and team first attitude won him supporters within the Hoop Group. One such person was Robert Kennedy, an organization official.  At dinner one evening Kennedy suggested a candidate for the La Salle head coaching vacancy who was attending the camp hire Howard immediately if he did get the job. The coach then looked at Howard, who was the only African American at the table, and said plainly “I’m not going to have any coloreds on my staff.” Howard brushed off the shockingly racist response. A month later he was invited to join the La Salle staff by the man the university actually hired instead of the bigot. In 2004, Dr. Gianni made Howard an assistant coach and his coaching career began in earnest. His resiliency helped to earn him a professional home in his “place of refuge”.

Robert Kennedy, Hoops Group President

The importance of resiliency was also imparted to Wyatt as he traveled his own road in the sport. He was playing the “best basketball of his life” in February of 2017 when he tore his ACL playing in Israel. This would begin a two year span of personal exploration and growth for him as he searched for things to help him in his recovery and also cultivate his other interests. He would launch his Marathon Sport endeavor which would channel his desire to help youth and give back through sports and other enrichment programs. (For more information visit www.msport.big.cartel.com). He also adopted a new nutritional regimen which includes mostly vegetables and fish. Wyatt, 29, hopes to play five or six more years before he turns his attention to his other interests full time.

Ricks, who had seen his fair share of struggles, going through 6 agents in 3 years, achieved his goal of providing for himself and his family as a professional basketball player. He also learned a lot about himself and his problems with mental health that hastened his eventual decision to quit playing professionally and return to the States. He is open about his challenges with PTSD, depression and anxiety. Missing his young daughter, the rigors of acclimating to a different culture, while living out of hotel rooms and from pillar to post with the constant travel that goes along with playing internationally, he was left “mentally burnt out.” After returning home he became involved in education and eventually joined the staff at The University of Missouri, reuniting with his Missouri State coach, Cuonzo Martin. Today he is spearheading programs to raise awareness of mental illness and give players tools to cope with these issues.   

Although Alford, Ricks, Howard and Wyatt have had very different journeys through the game they all showed some common traits as they went along the way. The humility and resiliency they displayed as they dealt with ebb and flow of their basketball lives is noteworthy and informative. The game is many things to those who choose to embrace it. Basketball can take you places, introduce you to people and teach you about yourself and those around you with a surety unexpected in a mere game.

The Big 10’s (Successful) Attack on Philly Mid-Majors!

It is ironic that most fans of college basketball are completely unaware of one of the most influential books of the 20th century. Published in 1962 by the University of Chicago Press, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, authored by Thomas Kuhn introduced term “paradigm shift” to contemporary discussions of organizational change and intellectual progress. Fans of Philadelphia’s rich college basketball tradition have, perhaps unknowingly, experienced a massive and consequential paradigm shift.

Thomas Kuhn can help us understand what has taken place over the past quarter century. Kuhn’s work is important because he singlehandedly changed the way we think about mankind’s most organized attempt to understand the world: science. Kuhn focused his considerable analytical acumen on our view of science and scientific progress. However, the power of his analytical approach for lay persons lies in it’s ability to shed considerable light on organizational change in general.


Wednesdays at 4:00 pm on 610 ESPN Philadelphia

Prior to Kuhn, the standard account saw steady, cumulative “progress” in organizational development. Kuhn, trashed that traditional mode of thinking… Instead, he saw “paradigm shifts” or abrupt discontinuities – a set of alternating “normal” and “revolutionary” phases in which communities of specialists in particular fields are plunged into periods of turmoil, uncertainty and angst. These revolutionary phases – for example the transition from Newtonian mechanics to quantum physics – correspond to great conceptual breakthroughs and lay the basis for a succeeding phase of business as usual.

The fact that Kuhn’s version seems unremarkable now is, in a way, the greatest measure of his success. But in 1962, almost everything about it was controversial because of the challenge it posed to powerful, entrenched philosophical assumptions about how organizational change and intellectual progress did – and should – work.

I strongly anticipate that many will find this application of his framework to subject of Philadelphia college basketball controversial. This essay will directly challenge some powerful entrenched assumptions about Philly’s mid-major hoops programs.

Here, I assert that the world of college basketball has been in an extended period of turmoil, uncertainty and angst for the past decade or so. This revolutionary phase – the transition from a high/mid/low major model to a far more narrowly circumscribed high/low major model – corresponds to aggressive Power 5 Conference geographic expansion and serves the basis for a new succeeding phase of business as usual. In this new phase, the mid-major category or classification will become extinct.

Increasingly, we are left with the BIG BOYS and the rest of us… Ain’t no more middle ground…


Jim Delany, Former (1990-2020) Big 10 Commissioner  

The present discussion will center around very specific cases in the mid-Atlantic region, but I would argue the logic is applicable to Division 1 college basketball in general.  Let’s focus on the strategy of encirclement deftly deployed by Big 10 Commissioner Jim Delany and it’s deleterious impact on Philly mid-major basketball programs, namely: Temple; Saint Joseph’s; La Salle, and; Drexel.


Quinton Rose, Temple University

Encirclement is a military term for the situation when a force or target is isolated and surrounded by enemy forces. Delany and the Big 10 have effectively encircled the Philly mid-majors: Rutgers to the north, Penn State to the West and Maryland to the South. This situation is highly dangerous for the Philly mid-majors: at the strategic level, because the Big 10 programs are attracting top recruits that would otherwise serve as reinforcements, and on the tactical level, because the Philly mid-majors are being subjected to an attack from several sides. Lastly, since the Philly mid-majors cannot retreat, they must either fight to the death or surrender.

Surrender does not appear to be imminent. These programs are gonna fight to the death…

In what can aptly be described as as stroke of genius, Delany added Penn State to the Big 10 in 1990, twenty-four years later he added Maryland and Rutgers. With the latter two additions, encirclement was firmly in place. Delany has publicly stated how significant the mid-Atlantic presence is to the Big 10’s long-term plans. “I don’t think people should evaluate this in the short term. But in a 25-year or 50-year period, I think they’re going to be very competitive. They are added value. And if the Big Ten had stayed at 10 and not taken on any of the risk associated with expansion, we probably would be tied for the fourth-largest conference.


Philly guys, Donta Scott, Hakim Hart, Sr, & Hakim Hart, Jr.

Delany further adds, “Rutgers is a fabulous institution, as is Maryland. And the corridor they occupy with Penn State might be the most important in the Western world — great students, political institutions, financial institutions. So we’re not only recruiting students to play basketball but students overall.”

“If you don’t venture out,” Delany said, “you never gain anything. I don’t want to go back and read all the articles about (criticism for) the Big Ten Network or instant replay or expansion. You have to do what you think is right. And if you make mistakes, you course correct or you double down.”

The Big 10 doubled-down and it is now reaping the rewards.

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Lamar Stevens, Penn State


DJ Newbill, John Johnson, Shep Garner, Lamar Stevens, Tony Carr, Nazeer Bostic, John Harrar, Mike Watkins, Izaiah Brockington, Kyle McCloskey and Seth Lundy were Penn State Nittany Lions that may have found their way to Philly mid-major programs under the old paradigm. Eric Ayala, Hakim Hart and Donta Scott are plying their trade in College Park, Maryland instead of the Wynnefield or Olney sections of Philadelphia.

Shit is real… The paradigm has shifted… But not everyone is convinced…

The alums, season ticket holders and athletic directors of the Philly mid-majors remain entrenched in the outdated paradigm. They have yet to fully comprehend the extent of the paradigm shift. Hence, they are striving maintain a “mid-major” status when the existence of the category itself is tenuous at best.

Collectively, they have pinned their hopes on a “Messiah Model” of intervention.

From their perspective of the “Messiah Model”, status as competitive mid-major program hinges on finding the right head coach. Operating within this model, the competitive struggles of the Philly mid-major programs on the court and on the recruiting trails are attributable to the “poor performance” of head coaches. Hence, Billy Lange replaces Phil Martelli… Ashley Howard replaces John Gianinni, Aaron McKie replaces Fran Dunphy and Zach Spiker replaces Bruiser Flint…

Just gotta get the right guy in there and we’ll be alright… So they think…

In this way, the Philly basketball community has developed a collective messiah complex. There has emerged a state of mind in which the alums, fans and athletic directors hold a belief that the “new coaches” – Lange, Howard, McKie and Spiker – are destined to become a program savior today or in the near future.

They seemingly lack an appreciation of the much more complex and insurmountable sets of problems and issues facing these programs.

Eric Hunter Jr., Montez Mathis

Montez Mathis, Rutgers

For those that understand a paradigm shift that has taken place, it’s just not that simple. For those that have recently ventured into the athletic facilities at Big 10 programs, it becomes immediately apparent that the Philly mid-majors are deficient and at a serious disadvantage. There’s one notable exception… Temple has been able to build and renovate it’s facilities in a manner that renders them on par with Penn State, Rutgers and Maryland.

Saint Joseph’s, La Salle and Drexel are simply not on the same planet. The gap is humongous and ever-expanding.

Then there are the significant differences in travel accommodations and living arrangements. Simply stated, money matters and Delany has delivered ungodly amounts of cash. For the fiscal year 2019, Big 10 athletic departments each received $52,100,000 before they sold a single $88 ticket, $1,000 seat license, $5 hot dog, $20 parking pass or $125 hoodie. The student-athletes travel and live differently in Big 10 programs. Kids and their parents have become savvy comparison shoppers. Private Jet travel, 5 star hotels, luxury apartments are de rigueur in the Big 10 Conference.

Philly mid-majors ain’t playing in that ballpark. People, even 18-19 year old prospects, like nice things…


Big 10 Commissioner, Kevin Warren

Then there’s the subtle but tremendously important leadership question…The Big 10 has a long history of progressive policies and righteous behaviors in the area of race relations. That means, in addition to tremendous advantages in athletic facilities, travel accommodations and living arrangements, the Big 10 has people in charge that look like many of the top high school basketball student-athletes in America. Jim Delany’s successor as Big 10 Commissioner is Kevin Warren (pictured above). Warren is the only Black commissioner among the Power 5 Conferences.


Michigan Athletic Director, Warde Manuel


Warde Manuel is the 12th athletic director in the 118 years that the University of Michigan has had a formal title for the job. And he’s the second African-American man in that office. Tradition-rich Michigan has a consistently given Black men an opportunity to serve in leadership positions. Michigan has 31 teams and more than 950 student-athletes. The self-supporting department has an annual budget of $197 million and a staff of 400.


Ohio State Athletic Director, Gene Smith

Gene Smith  currently serves as Vice President and Athletic Director for the Ohio State University. He was named the university’s eighth athletic director on March 5, 2005. The Ohio State athletic department sponsors 36 fully-funded varsity sports with more than 1.000 student-athletes competing for Big Ten Conference and NCAA championships. Smith has additional oversight responsibility for the Business Advancement division of Ohio State which includes: Schottenstein Center, Nationwide Arena, Blackwell Hotel, Drake Union, Fawcett Center, and Trademark & Licensing.

San Diego Padres v Washington Nationals

Maryland Athletic Director, Damon Evans

Damon Evans was named the Director of Athletics for the University of Maryland on June 25, 2018. He oversees a department with 20 varsity sports and 500 student-athletes, a full-time staff of over 200, and an annual budget of $95 million. Evans joined the Terrapins in December of 2014 and served as Executive Athletic Director and Chief Financial Officer. He had overseen all day-to-day operations for the athletic department since October of 2017 prior to his appointment as Director of Athletics.

The Philly mid-major programs have widely varying track records in this area. One has a long and strong legacy of diversity and inclusion. Another has made significant progress over the past few years. The others lag considerably behind in this regard.


Temple University COO, Kevin Clark

Temple has a long-standing track record of identifying and appointing Black males to leadership positions. Temple currently has a Black male COO, Kevin Clark (pictured above). Temple has a Black male basketball head coach and a Black female women’s basketball head coach. Historically, Temple has had a Black male athletic director, Black male football head coach, 3 Black female women’s basketball head coaches and two Black male basketball head coaches. Without question, Temple University has long valued Black participation above and beyond the playing field.

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La Salle Athletic Director, Brian Baptiste

La Salle University currently has a Black male athletic director, Brian Baptiste (pictured above) and a Black male basketball coach. La Salle has also had a Black male women’s basketball coach. La Salle demonstrates a commitment to diversity and inclusion at the leadership level.

Drexel has had one Black male basketball coach.

Saint Joseph’s has never had a Black male basketball coach. Saint Joseph’s has never had a Black female basketball coach. Saint Joseph’s has never had a Black athletic Director. Currently, Saint Joseph’s has zero Blacks in leadership positions in the Athletic Department.

As my Grandpop used to say, “everything ain’t for everybody…”

Taken together, one could easily surmise that these factors do not bode well for coaches of Philly mid-major programs competing with Power 5 programs for elite basketball recruits. In addition to talent drained off to Penn State and Maryland, Miami (ACC) has successfully recruited Davon Reed, JaQuan Newton, Lonnie Walker and Isaiah Wong from the Greater Philadelphia region. Virginia snatched DeAndre Hunter. Kentucky landed Quade Green and Lance Ware.

Surprise… Surprise… Kids like really nice new things…

And, who would’ve thought? Kids and parents respond to people that look like them in leadership positions.

Alums, fans and the ADs of the Philly mid-majors have convinced themselves that they can overcome these hurdles by simply identifying the “messiah.” Lange, Howard, McKie and Spiker are expected to deliver these programs from the depths of mediocrity they currently inhabit.

Through the sheer force of their personalities, by exercising their exceptional “X & O” knowledge and just working VERY HARD they will compete…

So what the BIG BOYS have NBA arenas on campus… So what the BIG BOYS travel exclusively on private jets… So what the BIG BOY players live in luxury apartments…

Who needs a garbage disposal and washer and dryer in their apartment anyway?

Unfortunately, once one realizes and accepts that the paradigm shift has occurred it becomes apparent that alums, fans and ADs of Philly mid-majors have somewhat grandiose self-images that veer towards the delusional.

Shit has changed! And… It ain’t changing back…

By the standards of a present-day high major/low major rubric, alums, fans and ADs of Philly mid-major basketball programs look misinformed and naive at best. And yet we know they aren’t. They are fervent and passionate supporters of programs with wonderful basketball traditions.

They have no idea they are well behind Towson, Monmouth, Quinnipiac, UMBC, Fairfield and Coppin State in the facilities arms race… They just don’t know…

Kuhn’s blinding insight into the problem at hand comes from the sudden realization that if one is to understand these alums, fans and ADs, one must know about the intellectual tradition (outdated paradigm) within which they are operating. One must understand, for example, that for them the term “mid-major” means a program outside the Power 5 that was truly capable of challenging the BIG BOYS year in and year out on the recruiting trail and on the court.

Those days, I fear, are a thing of the past.

Ashley Howard & Bashir Mason: Bruiser’s Boys!

On March 7, 2016, Drexel University severed ties with Men’s basketball Head Coach Bruiser Flint.

That one hurt…

Flint, assumed the helm at Drexel in 2001 after five years as the head coach of the UMass Minutemen. Fifteen years later, he left as the all-time winningest coach in Drexel program history (331-289) and a four-time winner of the CAA’s coach of the year award.

Flint elevated the Drexel program to unimaginable heights… His Dragons were, at times, the best the City of Philadelphia had to offer.

Seriously… Drexel was the BEST the City of Philadelphia had to offer…

In one memorable stretch, Flint’s Dragons walked three blocks over and knocked off St. Joseph’s 72-56 at the Palestra in front of 7,622 on December 2, 2006. Exactly a week later, they drove about 20 minutes up Lancaster Avenue and spanked Villanova 81-76 at the Pavillion while 6,500 sat in silence as the final buzzer sounded.

Yup… Drexel…

Ten days later, the Dragons took a four hour ride to upstate New York and smacked Syracuse 84-79 at the Carrier Dome. This time 16,328 Orange fans got to watch the giant slayers do their thing.


Drexel players celebrating their Dec. 19 victory over Syracuse, which was ranked 23rd at the time. Credit Dennis Nett/The Post-Standard, via A.P.

Ohhhh… Bruiser and Drexel were ready for anybody… anywhere…

Three days after the ‘Cuse game, Bru and his boys jumped on the El, transferred to the Sub and down went Temple 69-54 in front of 4,677 at the Liacouras Center. For good measure, in February the Dragons hopped on one of those commercial flights to Omaha, Nebraska and took down Creighton in front of 17,607 rabid Blue Jay fans.

Let’s recap… Drexel… On the road… Knocked off…

St. Joseph’s

Get the FUCK outta here! Naaaaah… You’re making this shit up…
Except, I’m not making it up… I was there… I watched it unfold…

Then in 2011-2012, I watched the Dragons win 29 games… TWENTY-NINE fuckin’ games… Drexel? Yes… Drexel!

During his tenure, Bruiser led the Dragons to four NIT appearances, including a trip the quarterfinals with that 29 victory squad in 2012.


Damion Lee (Golden State Warriors) played 3 seasons and graduated from Drexel University

However, the Dragons experienced a steady decline in performance following that 29-win season. Flint’s two best offensive players Chris Fouch and Damion Lee experienced major knee injuries forcing them to miss entire seasons. After Lee decided to play his final year of eligibility with the Louisville Cardinals, Flint limped through his final campaign severely undermanned and posted a 6-25 record to close out a great run at the program about 30 or so blocks from his childhood home in Southwest Philly.

When he reappeared in the the Big 10 on the bench with Archie Miller at Indiana, many probably thought we had seen the last of Bruiser Flint coaching in Philadelphia.


Bruiser Flint and Indiana Head Coach Archie Miller

Well… That is certainly not the case… On Wednesday December 18, 2019 at the Tom Gola Arena on the campus of La Salle University, Bruiser Flint roamed sideline in front of both benches. All you had to do was look closely…

You saw the finely tailored suits, the polished and elegant shoes and the charismatic smiles masking the burning desire to win the game. The unyielding effort on the defensive end of the floor and of course the unforgiving nature of the interactions with the referees.


Bashir Mason, Wagner Head Coach & Ashley Howard, La Salle Head Coach

The Head Coach of the visiting Wagner Seahawks, Bashir Mason was the man with the ball in his hands when Flint’s Dragon’s knocked off all the BIG BOYS in 2006-07. From the moment he arrived at 34th and Market as a freshman, Mason was Drexel’s point guard. Executing Flint’s game plan from 2003-2007, Mason scored more than 1,000 points while dishing out nearly 500 assists. Those that watched him play know that Mason’s calling card was defense. He was first four-time member of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) All-Defensive Team, he also became the first player in league history to be named Defensive Player of the Year as a freshman following the 2003-2004 season.

A true student of the game while playing for the Dragons, Mason told me then he wanted to be like then Drexel Assistant, Geoff Arnold and Bruiser Flint. He has certainly made his mentors extremely proud. Mason graduated from Drexel with a Bachelor’s Degree in Sports Management. After earning a Master’s Degree of Science in Education from Wagner in December of 2013. Mason, who was the youngest head coach at the Division I level when he was named the 18th head men’s basketball coach in school history on March 26, 2012, and at age 35, remains one of the nation’s youngest head coaches, checking in as the sixth-most youthful head coach heading into the 2019-20 campaign.

La Salle’s Head Coach, Ashley Howard, was introduced to the coaching profession by Bruiser Flint. Howard began his coaching career as a student assistant coach under Flint at Drexel University, in 2002, after medical concerns effectively ended his playing career for the Dragons. Flint and Arnold, embraced Howard and immersed him into all aspects of the coaching profession while he was still an undergrad.

Like most young athletes in the prime of their playing careers, Howard was understandably frustrated about his inability to compete on the court. But, he is extremely grateful that Flint and Arnold had the foresight to give him a set of tools, skills a a perspective that have served him well during his rapid rise through the coaching ranks.

After his apprenticeship under Flint and Arnold, Howard was fully prepared to embark upon a Division 1 coaching career. In 2004, following graduation, Howard was hired as an assistant coach at La Salle by Dr. John Giannini. He spent four years with the Explorers before returning to Drexel in 2008 as an assistant coach. He was part of a staff that led the Dragons to consecutive 20-win seasons, including a school record 29 victories in 2011-12. Howard successfully recruited Damion Lee (Golden State Warriors/NBA) to the Dragon program.

In 2012-13, Howard served as an assistant on Chris Mack’s staff at Xavier University before landing back in his hometown with Villanova. Prior to taking the reigns at La Salle, Howard most spent five seasons as an assistant coach at Villanova, helping the Wildcats to a pair of National Championships.

During his tenure at Villanova, Howard was involved in all aspects of the Villanova program including on-court teaching, player development and recruiting. He was instrumental in helping the Wildcats win two NCAA National Championships and setting a new NCAA record for the most wins in a four-year span.

Howard and Mason are the progeny of Flint and Arnold. Their success can be attributed directly to the time they spent being nurtured and “cussed out” by Flint and Arnold. We can certainly expect both to continue the tradition. And, we can also expect them to do so while wearing some of the nicest threads you will see on the sidelines. Flint and Arnold wouldn’t have it any other way.