Either Mississippi State basketball coach Ben Howland has an awful memory, or he's just a ruthless, vindictive man. Either way, it's not a good look.
In 1999, Howland was the head coach at Northern Arizona. His team had just won 21 games for the third season in a row and he was one of the more sought-after mid-major coaches in America. Days after the regular season, Howland bailed for Pittsburgh.
Four years later, after back-to-back Sweet Sixteen appearances with the Panthers, Howland bailed again, this time for UCLA. Both times he left players, coaches, the administration and committed (and prospective) recruits hanging.
Last fall, four-star power forward Garrison Brooks committed to Howland and Mississippi State and signed his National Letter of Intent. The 6-foot-10, 230-pounder from Auburn, Ala., is the 132nd-ranked recruit in the nation (Rivals) who passed on offers from Baylor, North Carolina and others to sign with the second-year coach of a program who hadn't made the NCAA Tournament since 2009, and hadn't won more than 14 games since 2012. It was a gigantic coup for Howland.
Two weeks ago, Brooks decided Mississippi State was not the right fit for him and asked for his release. That's tough for any program. No one wants to lose a big-time player whose signing likely prompted Howland to divert resources away from other top frontcourt recruits, thinking Brooks was a done deal.
Tough, sure, but it happens all the time. It's something you just have to deal with as a college basketball coach. Brooks is an amateur athlete who should be allowed to make that tough decision.
On Tuesday, Brooks told ESPN's Jeff Borzello that Mississippi State denied his request, saying, "Coach Howland doesn't want me to leave."
Of course he doesn't want Brooks to leave. He's an elite player. And technically, Howland is within his rights to deny Brooks' release. If Brooks really wants to go somewhere else, he have to wait another year to sign another NLI. All legal. Technically.
But denying Brooks' request is a pathetic move by a man who TWICE has departed schools with whom he's had a contract.
Make no mistake, Brooks WILL be granted his release. It's just a matter of time and bad press. Don't worry though, Bulldogs fans, I'm sure this won't affect the opinion of any potential future recruits.