LAPEL — Former players, coaches, colleagues, family and friends were at the Lapel vs. Frankton boys basketball game on Saturday to join in honoring former coach Jimmie Howell.
An emotional Howell and his wife Angie stood at center court in the Lapel gym to officially accept the dedication and naming of the hardwood as Jimmie Howell Court.
Frankton-Lapel Community Schools Superintendent Sterling Boles presented the plaque to Howell, a Lapel High School graduate who came full circle from student to coach, amassing accolades as few coaches ever do.
He led the Bulldogs to two state titles in 2005 as a Class 1A champion and again in 2016 as the Class 2A champion.
Since his retirement, Howell has cut his work time from 70 hours a week to 20-25. He helps his son, J.R. Howell, the head boys basketball coach at Zionsville High School, and works part-time at Edgewood Golf Course.
In fact, he was at the course when he heard about the honor he was going to receive.
“At the girls golf regional, I walked around with Macy (Beeson), and I guess on the Thursday before that, the board had approved it. I knew nothing about it,” Howell said.
Afterward, he said his best friend and former assistant Ron Buckner called him to the hallway in the clubhouse and told him.
“I was as teary-eyed then as I am right now,” Howell said.
“You read about coaches getting things named for them, and you never think it’s going to happen to you. I was so pleased that Lapel allowed me to come back and finish my career here,” Howell said.
In 1977, he was hired as an assistant coach at Frankton and moved on to be the head coach at Mt. Vernon high school when Indiana was still a one-class system. While at the Marauder helm from 1981-1995, Howell’s teams won seven sectional titles, and two regional titles, and made two final eight appearances.
Some of the players who came to honor their coach, Howell had not seen in many years. Players from his days at Muncie Central and Mt. Vernon even came to congratulate him, and current players from his son’s team from Zionsville were in attendance along with dozens from Lapel.
In 1995, Howell’s Muncie Central team was invited to play in the prestigious Hall of Classic in New Castle. During his tenure as a Bearcat, his teams won two sectional titles.
He moved on to Brownsburg High School from 1998 until 2004. In 2005, Howell returned to Lapel to serve not only as the head basketball coach, but also as the athletic director. The very next year, the Bulldogs won the state title.
In 2020, he retired after leading the Bulldogs to three sectional championships, two semistate championships and two state titles. Under Howell, the Bulldogs won their only Madison County title in 2016. He ended his career at Lapel as the winningest coach in school history with a record of 263-133.
Howell said he misses being a coach.
Out on the floor — as his accomplishments were read, and as he saw the packed gym and number of people there to support him — Howell became emotional. A line formed to congratulate him, and a reception following the game kept the celebration going.
“I’ve been blessed to have this happen,” Howell said. I kind of feel like I’m in a dream right now and hope I don’t wake up.”
When he was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018, Howell’s varsity wins through a 40-year span was an impressive 625 which made him the 14th-winningest basketball coach in the state of Indiana.
“This is a great school corporation, a great community to raise your kids. I’m just as happy as I can be about it,” Howell said.