BRISTOL, Tenn. – King University Head Baseball Coach Blaine Brown announced the resignation of associate head coach Luke Howard on Thursday. Howard has accepted the head coach position at Ouachita Baptist University in Arkadelphia, Ark.
Howard completed his seventh season at King, fifth as associate head coach, helping the Tornado back to the Conference Carolinas Baseball Championship. The Tornado defeated perennial power University of Mount Olive along with 20th-ranked Belmont Abbey in the tournament before falling to top-ranked North Greenville University and Mount Olive, ending their season with a 29-19 record.
"This is a bittersweet day for me personally," said Howard. "While my family and I are excited to start on this new journey, King University and the city of Bristol have been our home for the past seven years. Blaine Brown is like a brother to me and my relationship with him will last beyond our years of coaching. I have grown close to a lot of great players over the years and will miss each of them dearly. I am ready for the next chapter and look forward to this great opportunity at Ouachita Baptist, however, the King University baseball program will always be a part of Luke Howard!"
In 2017, King saw their first player drafted in nearly two decades as Howard's protégé Mitch Stophel was selected in the 25th round by the Chicago Cubs in the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft. Stophel only started to pitch as a senior in high school and grew in four years under Howard, leading to him being drafted following his senior season.
"I am so excited for Luke and his family, Annie, Drew, Willie," Brown said. "As sad as I am to see him go, I am even happier to see him get the opportunity to run his own program. He has been a big part of our success from the day he stepped foot on campus. I have been really lucky to work next to one of my best friends over the years, sharing special memories on and off the field. He's a tremendous coach and even a better person. On behalf of our entire baseball program, I want to thank Luke for his contributions and wish him and his family nothing but the best. He left a great mark on our baseball program and will be missed by all."
Under Howard's tutelage, King had five pitchers earn All-Conference Carolinas honors, including Octavio Mirabal in 2018. Mirabal led the league with 104 strikeouts while ranking second in Conference Carolinas with nine wins and fifth with a 3.38 earned run average.
"Luke's impact on King and our student-athletes has been significant during his seven years," Director of Athletics David Hicks said. "He's not only done a tremendous job of developing baseball players, but he has been a tremendous Christian mentor for our student-athletes."
Early in his tenure, Howard helped the Tornado reach the Conference Carolinas Tournament championship came in 2013 and 2014 as King finished runner-up in each season. Each of those two years, the Tornado won 30 games, their most wins as NCAA Division II members.
Howard returns to Ouachita Baptist, where he spent three years as an assistant coach before joining the King staff in 2012.