LAPEL — After he got the phone call a little over a week ago, he hung up, put his hands on his face and cried in disbelief.
The hometown hero’s basketball career had come full circle.
From being a Lapel High School Bulldogs player, to winning two state championships as their coach, Jimmie Howell will go down in Indiana basketball history as one of the best ever to be associated with the game.
Howell, 63, the school’s athletic director and the school’s 13-year basketball coach, has been selected for induction into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.
It’s an honor Howell never imagined possible.
“You never think something like this is going to happen,” Howell said. “I was kind of surprised.”
The hall of fame’s board of directors announced the 2018 men’s induction class earlier this week. The group will be honored during a ceremony Wednesday, March 21.
Howell is the fourth-winningest active Indiana boys high school coach and is 15th all-time in state history, entering the 2017-18 season with 582 career boys wins.
Getting word he had been inducted while still coaching left him speechless and a little stunned at first, he said. Once the recognition soaked in, he was beyond thrilled to have earned the honor.
“I’ve had a few people over the past couple of years tell me I was close and that it was going to happen,” Howell said. “But, when you actually get the call, I just kind of sat here and cried for a while.”
It’s an incredible honor to be inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame after giving so much of his life to teaching young athletes about the game and life, said his wife, Angie Howell.
“It’s well deserved,” she said. “He’s just so passionate for the game and still enjoys teaching it, maybe even more so now than coaching the actual games.”
Howell also cares deeply for the students he’s coached through the years, guiding players both on and off the court, Angie Howell said.
Howell is a 1972 Lapel High School graduate and was a three-year starter at Charleston Southern University, where he graduated as the program’s leader in career assists (372).
After finishing his playing career, he launched into a successful high school coaching career spanning four decades.
Howell was the varsity boys head coach at Mt. Vernon (Fortville) from 1981 to 1995, during which he led the Marauders to seven sectional titles and two regional championships, and from 1991 to 1995 concurrently served as Mt. Vernon’s varsity girls head coach, winning an additional 43 games.
He led Muncie Southside High School to a sectional championship, then coached at Brownsburg High School from 1998 to 2004 before being hired at Lapel.
His return to his alma mater has produced 220 wins in 13 seasons, including the 2005 Indiana High School Athletic Association Class 1A championship and the 2016 Class 2A state championship.
Still, he finds it hard to believe his name will be mentioned among the state’s best, he said.
“When you look at the history of all the people who are in, I’m thinking I don’t belong,” Howell said. “I grew up idealizing so many of the players and coaches, and a lot of those people who are in are icons.”
Howell credits his wife, whom he said has been the best basketball wife a coach could ask for, and his father, who was also a coach and got him into the game as a child. All three of his children, a son and two daughters, also played basketball in high school.
Howell said he wouldn’t have had half the success he’s had if not for the players and parents who have been extremely supportive across four decades of coaching.
Howell was an assistant coach for the 1991 Indiana All-Stars and since 2012 has held a seat on the IHSAA board of directors.
He joins four other men who are active Indiana high school boys coaches and HOF inductees – J.R. Holmes, Jack Keefer, Gene Miiller and Al Rhodes.

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Kristy Deer is a reporter at the Greenfield Daily Reporter. She can be reached at 317-477-3262 or kdeer@greenfieldreporter.com.