Prep Basketball

Frank Howell returns to Iowa high school girls' basketball coaching

Former Cedar Rapids Washington coach leaves Graceland University for Central Decatur

Former Cedar Rapids Washington girls' basketball coach Frank Howell waves to the crowd as he is inducted into the Washin
Former Cedar Rapids Washington girls’ basketball coach Frank Howell waves to the crowd as he is inducted into the Washington High School Athletic Hall of Fame in 2017. Howell will return to the high-school ranks, leaving Graceland University for Central Decatur. (The Gazette)

It’s not an ideal way to say goodbye. Or hello.

But a Zoom conference was the method in which Frank Howell was forced to break the news to his Graceland University women’s basketball team Wednesday that he was leaving.

And it’s how he’ll introduce himself to the Central Decatur High School Cardinals later Thursday.

The former girls’ coach at Cedar Rapids Washington, Howell will return to the high-school level next season.

“I’m going to look back with a lot of fondness at my four years at Graceland,” he said Thursday morning. “A lot of thankfulness. I don’t have to wonder now about what it would be like to coach at the college level. I’ve got some peace now.

“I just wish we could have won more games.”

Howell’s four-year run netted a 31-88 record at the NAIA school in Lamoni. The Yellowjackets were 2-25 in the season before Howell was hired, then improved to 6-23, 8-22 and 13-17 in his first three seasons.

They slid to 4-26 last winter.

“I still had another year on my contract, and I think we would have had a good team,” Howell said.

But the opportunity at Central Decatur arose when some coaching dominoes fell in the Leon-based school, located 15 miles northeast of Howell’s home in Lamoni.

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Zach Clark vacated the boys’ basketball position to concentrate on his athletics-director duties, and Curtis Boothe slid from the girls’ job to the boys’ bench to coach his son.

That left an opening for Howell, 50, who needs about eight years to qualify for IPERS, the retirement benefit package for state employees, including public-school teachers.

Boothe had the girls’ program humming. Central Decatur has won 137 of 148 games in the past six seasons, reaching the state tournament four straight years between 2016 and 2019.

Howell spent some of his early-elementary boyhood days at Central Decatur.

As a high-school coach, Howell has posted a 345-172 record, winning a 2A state championship at Audubon in 1999. He was 224-83 in 13 seasons at Washington. His teams were state runners-up three times between 2005 and 2008.

Howell’s wife teaches English and Spanish at Lamoni, and his daughters are seventh- and fifth-graders there. The family will remain in its home, two blocks away from the Lamoni school.

“The girls have some Lamoni Demons pride,” Howell said. “If it comes to the point in which I’m coaching against them, we’ll all give our all to win.”

Howell’s teaching duties are yet to be specified, but he said he has been guaranteed a full-time position.

Comments: (319) 368-8857; jeff.linder@thegazette.com

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