Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Local Sports

April 25, 2014

MARK MAYNARD: Howard goes from a little Indian to a UT assistant

ASHLAND — When the news came out earlier this week that Donnie Tyndall was going to be the new basketball coach at the University of Tennessee, I got a little bit of a chill.

Not because of Tyndall, the former Morehead State coach who pulled off the biggest win in school history with the upset over Louisville in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, who has rocketed up the coaching ranks in a hurry after that storied victory.

No, it was because of Adam Howard, the young coach from Ashland who has been one of Tyndall’s assistants on that same wild ride and is now an assistant on his staff at Tennessee.

Adam’s family, especially parents Rick and Chris, by now probably own every piece of Volunteer orange gear in the Tri-State. His grandfather, Paul, is drinking the orange Kool Aid, too, I’m sure. And, really, who can blame them?

To me, though, Adam Howard will also be one of my little Indians.

Howard was on my son’s Ashland American Little League baseball team a few (many) years ago. He came to us on a “brother option.” His big brother, Chad, was a 12-year-old on the team when Adam, that little runt of a 9-year-old, joined the Indians.

I was an assistant coach with Tony Grossl for four years during my son’s time in Little League and Adam was with me for three of them.

I know it’s cliche, but he was a little fella with one of the biggest hearts. We made him our fulltime catcher as a 10-year-old because, even at that age, he was one of the most savvy players on our roster. The image of him with the catcher’s equipment draped on him is burned in my memory. He was really too small to be a catcher and the equipment sagged. Just don’t tell Adam Howard he can’t do something because he’ll prove you wrong. He did it throughout his athletic career.

Adam was never the fastest or the strongest player on any team. But he was always one of the smartest. No, make that the smartest.

That made him a great catcher — all 75 pounds of him — in Little League.

As a 12-year-old, when Stephen was throwing a no-hitter, I can remember Adam being a calming factor for him when, late in the game, Stephen felt like he was getting “squeezed” by the umpire. Adam went out to settle him down. That’s not something 10-year-olds do to 12-year-olds.

Now calmed and collected (unlike his father in the dugout), Stephen finished off the no-hit gem.

Adam was always one who could be counted on for the clutch hit or the big play. He just had it inside of him.

Some of them have it, some of them don’t.

Adam Howard had it. Always did. Always will I suppose.

He was always a hot-shot basketball player growing up, too, even though he wasn’t the biggest, strongest or quickest. His release was perfect and his downtown missiles almost always seemed to swish without the net moving.

Adam could bomb them in from a long way out. I remember his first game as a Tomcat when the freshman dressed and drilled 3-pointers like he’d done it his whole life.

His family was always there, cheering for him, believing in him and pushing him to the greatness that was inside.

Adam was an outstanding Tomcat basketball player who delivered many game-winning shots in his career. What he lacked in overall athletic ability, he more than made up for with smarts.

When it came time to choose a college, he went with Western Kentucky University. Not because they were offering him a full ride — he walked on — but it was because Adam was already thinking about his future.

He wanted to be a coach.

Adam mostly sat the bench in his four seasons at WKU but don’t think for a split second it was wasted time. Not with Adam Howard, who was like a human sponge when it came to coaching. I can also guarantee you that no player worked any harder.

When he hooked up with Tyndall at Morehead State, Adam was inexperienced but always eager. Tyndall saw that something special in Adam’s eyes, too. It was that same something special I saw when he was one of my little Indians.

Adam went with Tyndall to Southern Mississippi for two years and now he’s an assistant coach with the Volunteers of the Southeastern Conference.

Congratulations Adam!

I may have to have a swig of that orange Kool-Aid myself before it’s all said and done.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at mmaynard@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2648.

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