By Harry Allison

Villanova assistant coach Ashley Howard is getting a chance to be the Top Explorer!

Howard, Jay Wright’s top assistant at Villanova, was hired as the La Salle Explorers’ new head coach yesterday.

He takes over the La Salle program having served as an assistant at the school for four seasons (2004-08) on then-coach John Giannini’s staff. Giannini and La Salle parted ways last month after 14 seasons.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be named the head coach at La Salle University,” Howard said in a statement announcing his hiring. “I chose to coach at La Salle early in my career because of its incredible tradition in the Big 5, its dedication to athletic excellence and its commitment to its student-athletes. To have the opportunity to return to campus and lead this storied basketball program — a program defined by greats such as [Tom] Gola, [Ken] Durrett, [Michael] Brooks, [Lionel] Simmons and [Rasual] Butler — is one for which I’m deeply appreciative.”

Howard was Wright’s top assistant with the Wildcats the past five seasons. Before that, he was an assistant with Drexel, his alma mater.

“Ashley is an outstanding coach who made a great impact on our program and university in his five years with us. His passion for mentoring young men and teaching skill has been invaluable in our team’s development,” Wright said in the statement.

La Salle finished 13-19 overall and 7-11 in the A-10 this season.

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