Three things bring Ben Howland the most joy in life: Family, fly fishing and coaching basketball.  His passion for the final item on that list is so great that he eagerly traded a relaxing lifestyle and daily walks on the beach in his hometown of Santa Barbara for a high-stress rebuilding job in Starkville, Miss. [DraftKings: Free $25,000 March Madness Fantasy Basketball Contest ] Howland has reached an agreement to become Mississippi State’s next coach, first reported on Monday . The hire comes only two days after Mississippi State abruptly fired coach Rick Ray after a third straight losing season, suggesting that the Bulldogs already had a very good idea that Howland would take the job if it became available. The hire of Howland is a major upgrade based on his track record of rebuilding successfully in very different ways at Northern Arizona, Pittsburgh and UCLA. He won two league titles at Northern Arizona by identifying below-the-radar prospects and plugging them into a system that emphasized outside shooting. He reached a pair of Sweet 16s at Pittsburgh by mining the New York City area for tough, hard-nosed players who fit into the Panthers’ rugged style of play. He reached three Final Fours at UCLA by landing many of the Los Angeles area’s best players and getting them to buy into a system that emphasized structured offense and physical man-to-man defense. That history of success with different styles and in different regions should make Mississippi State feel good about the risk it is taking hiring a coach with no ties to the Deep South. There’s also the potential that Howland could hire former UCLA assistant Korey McCray, whose Atlanta AAU background helped the Bruins land Georgia products Tony

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