Thole: Jumping through hoops with the Howards


The Howard family is right at home on the basketball court. Family members include, from left, Sarah (Howard) Thompson, Dave Howard, Tim Howard, Bob Howard, Bob Howard, Jr., and Sue Howard. (Contributed photos)
The Howard family is right at home on the basketball court. Family members include, from left, Sarah (Howard) Thompson, Dave Howard, Tim Howard, Bob Howard, Bob Howard, Jr., and Sue Howard. (Contributed photos)

It’s not often that a freshman can make a high school varsity basketball team, but making a significant contribution to that team is indeed rare.

I’m here to tell you that not only did freshman Brendan Howard of Great Falls High School in Montana have a fine season, he was selected to the Eastern AA (large school) All-State Team.

The 6-foot-4 Howard averaged 18 points and 10 boards per game in leading the Great Falls Bison (I like that moniker) to the state tourney in Billings, where they went two and out.

Brendan’s older brother Bobby Howard III is a former Montana Mr. Basketball award winner who went on to become an All-Big Sky player at Montana State University in Bozeman. Bobby is currently an assistant basketball coach at Western Montana University in Dillon — the same place where retired SAHS coach Don Campbell starred.

You can see that the story is about to take a local swing. Coaching Bobby III and Brendan at GFHS has been Bob Howard, Jr., who was a fine player on Stillwater’s 1976 state tournament team (22-5) that won conference and region titles. He also contributed to a conference title the previous season, both under former coach Duane Mutschler.

Coach Howard played at MSU where he met and later married Kathy McLaughlin, herself an All-American, Hall of Fame player who still holds records for the Montana State Bobcats. The coach has spent his entire coaching career in Montana and led the Bison to a state title a few years back.

That’s not the half of it, sports fans.

Bob, Jr., is the son of Stillwater’s Bob Howard and his wife, Sue. Bob, the eldest, played basketball for the Old Abes at Memorial High School in Eau Claire, Wis., and later for the Blugolds at UW-Eau Claire. The elder Howards had a real love of the sport and passed it on to their offspring.

Sue, the matriarch, played basketball for St. Mary’s Hall, which is now part of the Shattuck-St. Mary’s Academy in Faribault. She was also from Eau Claire.

After Bob, Jr., came Tim Howard ’79, who was a sharpshooter for the Ponies who posted a 14-8 record that season. He is a fixture at Ponies games and coaches in youth leagues.

Next came Sarah (Howard)Thompson ’84, who led the locals to a 19-3 mark in 1983 and a state tournament berth with a 20-6 outfit in 1984. Those teams captured a pair of St. Paul Suburban Conference titles and a section crown under coach George Hoeppner. She continued to enjoy a brilliant All-American career at St. Cloud State University, where was a prolific scorer.

Dave Howard ’83 didn’t play hoops, but I for one can testify to the fact that he was and still is a five-star computer whiz. I was amazed with the data he would gather on our upcoming football opponents.

Tim and his wife, Gina, have their own fifth-grade traveling team scoring ace — a Howard family tradition. Andrew Howard might some day be a sharpshooter for the Big Red.

Andrew has a pair of athletic sisters in Alex, a junior, and freshman Ava, who played basketball in the youth program until moving on to swimming. They can be forgiven, because Alex is captain and all-conference for the Ponies and Ava was all-state last fall for coach Brian Luke.

At least 50 percent of the Howard family is also proficient with a fly rod.


Today’s Sports

Trivia Question

How many times has Tiger Woods won a professional golf tournament at Torrey Pines?


In the huddle

Stillwater all-state offensive tackle Peter Palecek is slated to play for the North squad in this year’s Minnesota Football Coaches Association Tackle Cancer All-Star Football Game on June 28 at St. John’s University, where it was recently moved after originally scheduled for SCSU’s Husky Stadium. Palecek will be right at home because nearby SCSU is his future destination. Well, Palecek didn’t sit idle over the winter as he compiled a 32-11 record to garner top honors as Most Valuable Athlete for the 16-17 SAHS wrestling team of coach Rich Keller. Palecek, Collin Olson and Grant Wohlwend made the all-conference team with Palecek, Haden Hausken and Wohlwend advancing to state. The Joey Gould Award went to John Huntley and the Keller Scholarship to Olson. Captains elect are Gavin Keogh, Ben Sweet and Huntley…. Paige Becker, the leading scorer for the Ponies (9-19) girls’ basketball team was selected Most Valuable Player by her teammates. Becker averaged 11 points per game, followed by Erin Thiets (7.2) and sophomore Rilee Day (7.1). Things are getting better as the girls improved throughout the season and Becker and Maggie Ogren are the only seniors on the squad. Madisen Schmitt was the top chairman of the boards and the Most Improved Player…. Today’s sports trivia answer: Tiger Woods has won eight times at Torrey Pines, including the U.S. Open there in 2008. If you missed this one, don’t feel bad — I guessed four…. The SAHS girls’ track and field team placed fifth in the Suburban East Conference Relays last week. The Big Red won a pair of events with Rachel Amos, Cela Peterson, Annika Anderson and Belle Mulcahy winning the 4×100 hurdles and Marisa Tatro, Kristen Diederichs, Claire Weber and Paige Becker taking first place in the 4×100 thrower’s relay…. Together we build courage, character and loyalty…. finis


Today’s rumination #659

A good example is a gift you give to others.

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George Thole retired as head football coach at Stillwater after the 1999 season. He ranks among Minnesota’s top coaches in history with a 285-69-2 record (.805 winning percentage), including four state titles and two state runner-up finishes among 22 championship seasons. He co-authored (with Jerry Foley) “Coaching the Veer Offense,” second edition. His column appears Fridays in the Gazette. To contact the hall of fame coach e-mail: [email protected]