CEDAR RAPIDS — Success in basketball, whether as a player or a coach, has followed Frank Howell his entire life. Now the 1988 Perry graduate will be facing what he called both “a real challenge and a real opportunity.”
Howell resigned Monday after 13 years as girls basketball head coach at Cedar Rapids Washington to become the new women’s head coach at Graceland University in Lamoni. The Yellow Jackets, who play in the NAIA Division I Heart of America conference, were just 2-25 last season.
“My first priority will be to contact all of our returning players and let them know they are going to play key roles for us,” Howell said. “I have already spoken with a few and will be reaching out to the others as soon as I can.”
Howell’s career has been dotted with success. As a Bluejay junior he helped guide the 1987 team to fourth place, then was a key contributor to the 1988 State Championship squad as a senior.
He played two years of basketball and two years of tennis while running cross country for one year at William Penn, where he earned degrees in political science and history.
His coaching tenure began as an assistant to Perry head coach Mike Long in the final season of girls six-on-six basketball. He spent a year coaching at DC-G while pursuing his teaching certificate at Iowa State University, and when no teaching openings were available in Dallas Center took the freshman girls coaching job in Audubon.
One year later he was the head coach, and during his nine-year stint he led the Wheelers to the state championship in 1999.
Howell was 224-83 in 13 years at CR Washington, leading the Warriors to three runner-up finishes in the four-year span between 2005-08. His career mark is an impressive 345-172 (.667) in 22 years as a head coach.
Stepping into a collegiate position means Howell will have to do something he is unfamiliar with — recruiting.
“I look forward to it and am positive I’ll be a good recruiter once I get going,” he said. “I have no doubt about the amount of work it takes, but I’m eager to get out there, see a lot of great players and have the opportunity to share with them my vision as a coach, what their coming to Graceland will do for us and what I think it will do for them.”
Howell said he carries with him nothing but fond memories of Perry and said he was delighted and proud to be asked to address the pep rally before the Bluejays departed for the state tournament this March — their first trip to the state quarterfinals since Howell’s team won it all back in ’88.
“I can’t tell you how grateful I am to (Perry Acitivities Director) Tom Lipovac for inviting me to come back and speak to the guys and the crowd,” he said. “I am so proud of what they accomplished. I was following the (substate final) Glenwood game on Facebook and Twitter while it was going on and I loved it — what these young men were able to achieve is something they will take with them the rest of their lives.”
Howell said he would miss his time in Cedar Rapids, where he has developed several close relationships.
“I have always wanted to coach at the collegiate level, so the decision was, in that regard, an easy one,” he explained. “That doesn’t mean I won’t miss being the coach here and all the friendships I have made and my relationships with my current and former players, but I just could not pass this up. Being a collegiate head coach has always been an important goal for me, personally and professionally.”
Frank and wife Sarah have two daughters, Meredith and Natalie, ages nine and seven. Moving the family is one of many tasks Howell is now suddenly confronted with.
“I suppose that ‘officially’ the job doesn’t start until August 1, but really it started yesterday,” he said. “There is a lot to do, but this is an opportunity I have always wanted and am looking forward to getting started.”
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