Ashley Howard will be next La Salle basketball coach

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Ashley Howard celebrates Villanova’s NCAA championship on March 25.

Villanova top assistant Ashley Howard will be the next La Salle head men’s basketball coach, to be introduced by the school Monday. The news was first reported Sunday by The Inquirer.

After Howard became the school’s top target — once it was clear he was interested in the job, as he confirmed Monday night in Villanova’s locker room after the Wildcats won the national title — negotiations between Howard and La Salle continued into this weekend.

​A 2004 Drexel graduate, Howard has deep local roots. He played at Monsignor Bonner High and Drexel. His first college coaching job was as an assistant at La Salle under John Giannini, where he stayed for four years before returning to Drexel to work under Bruiser Flint. He worked at Xavier for a season in 2012-13 before going to work for Jay Wright at Villanova.

Wright expressed his appreciation for Howard in a tweet:

He ascended to Wright’s top assistant this past season after Baker Dunleavy took the head-coaching job at Quinnipiac. In addition to the two national titles Villanova won during Howard’s time there, the Wildcats won three Big East tournaments. The program obviously had a historically good record, never losing more than five games during Howard’s time.

Howard is second-generation local basketball. His father, Mo Howard, came out of St. Joseph’s Prep of the the Philadelphia Catholic League to start for Maryland during the height of Lefty Driesell’s run for the Terps. The younger Howard still is co-owner (with Jeff Jones) of Bonner’s single-game scoring record, 41 points.

On Sunday, La Salle released several quotes, including from Explorers legend Lionel Simmons: “The hire is well deserved. Ashley put in his dues, he’s a Philly guy and he deserves a shot. I think he’s going to help us a lot. We have had some tough years as of late. We are excited about the new hire and looking forward to Ashley turning us around. He’s been involved in Philly basketball forever, he brings a work ethic and an enthusiasm that can get the players motivated. That’s going to be his main focus, to get the guys motivated and heading in the right direction.”

Another quote came from Villanova point guard Jalen Brunson, who swept the national player of the year awards: “Coach Ash helped me grow as a player and as a person. His ability to teach players the game of basketball and encourage them makes him very unique. Being coached by a great person makes relationships last a lifetime.”