New Zionsville Community High School boys basketball coach J.R. Howell never had a doubt he would follow his father’s coaching path.
Jimmie Howell, J.R.’s father and an Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer, is entering his 40th season as head coach and 17th at Lapel High School.
“It’s always been in my wheelhouse,” J.R. Howell said. “To tell you the truth, I have no idea what I would do other than coaching. I’ve always looked up to my dad, and I always wanted to be like him. At first, I thought I wanted to be a college coach but quickly realized high school is going to be more of my fit, with wanting to have a family and be present with my family.”
Howell, 32, replaces Shaun Busick, who left ZCHS in July after 14 seasons to take the Covington coaching job.
“It’s a great opportunity,” Howell said. “My wife and I have lived in Whitestown the last 4 1/2 to 5 years, and it’s always been a spot we’ve liked since we’ve been here. It’s a job that has been on my radar when coach Busick was ready to leave.”
Howell acknowledged the timing was a bit nontraditional with the job opening coming so late and amidst the pandemic.
“It’s one of those jobs that I’d gladly take if that’s the sacrifice I need to make to get a job like this,” he said. “As far as the timing goes, it’s not ideal, but at the same time, it’s perfect.”
Howell served as a Carmel High School assistant coach under Ryan Osborn the past three seasons. Osborn coached Howell as a Brownsburg assistant in seventh grade.
“It’s was neat how it all came full circle and I was able to be his assistant for these last three years,” Howell said.
Prior to Carmel, Howell had head coaching stints at Caston and Western Boone for two seasons each. Previously, he had been an assistant at Anderson University and Northwood University in Michigan.
The elder Howell is proud of his son’s dedication.
“He’s put the time in the last seven or eight years to get in position to get a job like that,” Jimmie Howell said. “This fits him really well. I think he’s 5 miles from his home.”
J.R. Howell was a junior standout on Lapel’s state championship team in the 2004-05 season during his father’s first year coaching at Lapel after leaving Brownsburg.
“As a senior, we got beat by University, and the head coach was (ZCHS athletic director) Greg Schellhase, so we’ve talked about how he ended my high school career,” said Howell, who played at Marian University.
The Eagles, who lost their four top scorers to graduation, have talented sophomores in Logan Imes and Nick Richart returning.
“There is definitely going to be a different philosophy offensively and defensively,” Howell said. “We’ve talked that there is going to be frustration with them learning a new style of play and it not coming as easy to them. We’ll bring in a new system but it’s something the guys are excited about.”
Howell said his offense is motion-based but with a different spin.
“Coach Busick was running a ball/screen motion for the most part with his wrinkles to it,” he said. “We’ll be moving the ball without any predetermined actions. It’s more of, let the guys read the defense and react, play off of each other.”