rebuilding UB women’s basketball

Next-Play Mentality: James Howard Rebuilds the UB Women’s Basketball Team

When former Georgetown University Hoyas coach James Howard arrived on UB’s campus in 2023, he knew that he had been brought here for a reason. “We are trying to rebuild and restore the young women’s confidence here,” he says.

After coaching in the Big East Conference, Bridgeport might have seemed like a strange choice to some, but not Howard. “I’m a coach by nature, and I don’t want to sit and not do anything. I have so much to give to the game and give to young people,” he says. “So, I saw the position here open at Bridgeport and I didn’t apply anywhere else. Then, when I walked on the campus, I fell in love.” He took a walk from the seaside campus down to Long Island Sound and thought, “this is my million-dollar recruiting walk.”

Howard has had a long career working with basketball teams at many different levels. He started coaching women’s basketball at the University of Maryland as assistant coach and director of basketball operations, moved on to George Mason University, coached at Delaware State University, and served as associate head coach at Howard University before his tenure at Georgetown. He is a member of the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) and the Black Coaches Association (BCA).

NCAA DII Women’s Basketball – 2023 – Molloy Lions vs Bridgeport Purple Knights Harvey Hubble Gymnasium, Bridgeport, Connecticut.

“James brings a wealth of knowledge and experience at the highest levels of women’s basketball,” says Jay Moran, Vice President of Athletics and Recreation at University of Bridgeport. “He will help move the team forward to compete in an ultra-competitive conference and region.”

That competition has been fierce during this first season of Howard’s tenure, with a series of wins and losses for the Purple Knights. The team defeated conference teams like Bloomfield and Caldwell but fell to Franklin Pierce and New Jersey City. Still, Howard sees the group growing and developing together through it all. “It’s a work in progress,” he says confidently.

Howard’s coaching style at UB focuses on defense and getting the players to work as a group, increasing what he calls the team’s “basketball IQ.” “We are pushing creativity, the ability to dribble, pass, and shoot, getting back to the fundamentals of the game of basketball,” he says. “I’m trying to change the culture of the team and teach them why it’s important to talk about wanting to be champions, but more importantly teach them what goes into being champions.”

“This is an exciting moment for our women’s basketball program and university,” said University of Bridgeport President Danielle Wilken. “James’s reputation as being a ‘players coach’ is the ideal fit for the school, and we look forward to him not only leading the team to wins on the court but also supporting the continued development and success of our student-athletes off the court.”

Team captain Stephanie McBride says that she can see those changes already. “We’re competing every day and getting better,” she says. As captain and a senior, McBride has taken ownership of the obligations and complexities of leadership. “We are learning how to work with different personalities and how to come together and work with each other,” she says. “I have to be an example to my teammates, show them what to do, and be a voice for the team and represent them.” She believes that being captain helped her with public speaking, in particular, and plans to take the leadership skills she has learned at UB into the business world after graduation. “Sometimes you make decisions that may not always turn out the way you wanted,” says McBride. “But you learn how to bounce back and have that next-play mentality.”

Both players and coach have continued to develop that “next-play mentality” over a tumultuous season. For the players, perhaps, it comes down to learning from losses, appreciating challenges, and continuing to work to be better teammates and leaders every day. For Coach Howard, it comes from serving yet another group of young women and helping them become more than they were. He has done that many times in a long career, but every group and every individual player is different.

“There are always going to be ups and downs,” Howard says, “but getting back up in basketball – and in life – is going to build character for every last one of these young women.”

Interested in learning more about UB Athletics? Visit the home of the Purple Knights online today!