November 28, 2011

Howes one win away from passing coaching legend Tom Young

By Chris McManes

Among the most successful coaches in Catholic University men's basketball history – Mike Lonergan, Jack Bruen, Fred Rice and Tom Young – you can add another name.

Steve Howes.

Howes, just a year removed from passing Bruen on CUA's career victories list, is one win shy of passing Young. He will get his first opportunity against Haverford College at DuFour Center tonight at 7 p.m.

"To be mentioned in the same line as those legends is surreal," Howes said. "I feel honored and also humbled because I still remember being cut as a high school freshman. So to be on the verge of passing another legend is remarkable."

Young posted a record of 134-88 (.604) from 1958-67. When contacted at his home in Virginia Beach, Va., on Sunday night and told that he was about to be eclipsed by Coach Howes, he said in jest, "He has some nerve."

"Good for him that he's going to pass me," Young said. "That was a long time ago. It's good for the school that they continue to do well in sports."

Howes began his eighth season at his alma mater with 131 victories. His current 134-66 (.667) record translates to the second-highest winning percentage in school history. His team's 21-9 mark last year was his fourth 20-win season. His clubs have appeared in the postseason six times, including automatic qualifications into the 2006 and 2007 NCAA Tournaments. The latter followed two league titles in CUA's final seasons in the Capital Athletic Conference.

The Cardinals' 3-0 record this year includes the championship of the season-opening Days Inn Tip-Off Tournament in Carlisle, Pa. CUA downed host Dickinson College in the final, 69-67. Victory No. 3 came last week at Frostburg State University, 72-67. The Cards are forging a new identity since the graduation of two 1,000-point scorers, R.J. Dixon and All-American Jason Banzhaf.

"I see a good chemistry and work ethic with this group," Howes said. "They're coachable, and we're getting contributions from different guys each night out. Maybe the thing I like the most is when we're on the road, I get compliments from the hotel staff and restaurant wait staffs about how polite and respectful our young men are.

"That reflects so positively on their families, the type of young man we recruit, and on our university."

Young's success also reflects positively on CUA. The high-water mark came in 1963-64 when his team captured the Mason-Dixon Conference Tournament championship and advanced to the NCAA College Division Tournament. It was the Cardinals' first postseason appearance in 20 years.

Young came to CUA after serving as a captain at the University of Maryland and helping the Terrapins win their first ACC championship in 1958. Despite not having a recruiting budget and being in his first coaching job, he was able to convince a lot of good players to play for the Cardinals. His first two teams went 15-6 and 12-12.

The Cards went on to record eight winning seasons in Young's nine years. His highest winning percentage (.696) came in 1960-61 when he led CUA to a 16-7 record. The Cardinals' 17 wins the next season tied the school mark for victories. In his final campaign, the Cards won at the University of Evansville, 73-71, at the time the nation's third-ranked team.

Young, desiring to become a head coach at the major college level – then known as the University Division – returned to Maryland for two years as an assistant before becoming American University's head man from 1969-73. He enjoyed his greatest success at Division I Rutgers University (1973-85), where he led the Scarlet Knights to four NITs and four NCAA Tournaments.

In 1975-76 Young guided Rutgers to a 31-2 mark and an appearance in the Final Four. The Sporting News and UPI named him national Coach of the Year. The star of that team, All-American Eddie Jordan, later hired Young to be an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards. During Young's four-year tenure (2003-07), Washington qualified for the NBA playoffs three times.

"He had a terrific career on all levels," Howes said.

Young was a head coach for 31 years, including six at Old Dominion University, and earned 524 career victories. Among the players he mentored were 17 NBA draft picks. In 2003 Maryland inducted him into its Athletics Hall of Fame.

When Howes first made his summer league team at Good Counsel High School, the Falcons went to a team camp at Old Dominion. Young ran the camp.

"To think about all Tom accomplished in his career, to have met him then, and now coming full circle and be close to passing him, I can't put into words how meaningful it is to me," Howes said. "I have been blessed with a great mentor (Lonergan), as well as wonderful student-athletes and staff.

"I couldn't have reached this point without them."

Lonergan, No. 1 on CUA's all-time wins list (251) and tops in winning percentage (.740), plans to attend tonight's contest. After six successful seasons at the University of Vermont, he is in his first year as head coach at nearby George Washington University.

"I have really enjoyed watching Steve do a tremendous job carrying on the great tradition of Catholic University basketball," said Lonergan, whose Colonials are 4-1. "Since he is a former player and assistant of mine, I am especially proud of his success. It's not easy to compete for a championship every season, yet Steve has done that.

"I plan on being at the game to see Steve pass Tom Young, one of the all-time great coaches in CUA history."

For more on Tom Young's coaching career, see http://statsheet.com/mcb/coaches/tom-young.

For more on his time at Catholic University, go to http://www.cuacardinals.com/sports/mbkb/2010-11/releases/100_years_of_hoops_article.

Chris McManes is the Cardinals' basketball historian.

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