La Salle Explorers

B.J. Johnson's big night helps La Salle avoid collapse to South Alabama

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B.J. Johnson's big night helps La Salle avoid collapse to South Alabama

BOX SCORE

B.J. Johnson had 30 points and 10 rebounds to help La Salle beat South Alabama 81-73 on Thursday night.

La Salle led 65-44 midway through the second half until South Alabama scored 14 straight. Johnson ended the run with a put-back basket to make it 67-58 with 7:03 left.

Rodrick Sikes pulled South Alabama within 78-73 but Amar Stukes answered with a 3-pointer with 1:04 left.

La Salle (3-0) opened the game with 10 unanswered points and led 47-27 at halftime. Johnson scored nine of La Salle's first 18 points as it held a 10-point lead. He had 22 points and six rebounds at the break.

Johnson, coming off a 20-point and career-high 14-rebound performance, had his third straight double-double. Isiah Deas added 15 points, and Saul Phiri had 14 points and 10 rebounds.

The Explorers held their previous two opponents to below 35 percent shooting but the Jaguars were 26-of-55 shooting.

Jordan Andrews made four 3-pointers and scored 20 points for South Alabama (1-2), which played La Salle for the first time in program history. Sikes added 17 points, Herb McGee had 12, and Josh Ajayi 10.

La Salle names Ashley Howard as new basketball coach

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Photo: La Salle University

La Salle names Ashley Howard as new basketball coach

La Salle didn't have to venture outside of the Big 5 to find its new basketball coach.

The university Sunday announced Villanova top assistant Ashley Howard has been hired as the Explorers' next head coach. Howard will be formally introduced in a press conference Monday at 11 a.m. 

"It's an honor and a privilege to be named the head coach at La Salle University," Howard said in a press release from the university. "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 Gola, Durrett, Brooks, Simmons and Butler — is one for which I'm deeply appreciative."

Howard, who attended Monsignor Bonner High and graduated from Drexel, began his coaching career in 2004 at La Salle as an assistant to Dr. John Giannini.

"As a former assistant coach here, we know firsthand that Ashley Howard is an exceptional coaching talent who has a deep understanding of both La Salle's basketball tradition and its important student-focused mission," La Salle director of intercollegiate athletics and recreation Bill Bradshaw said. "This is a university that holds character, integrity and commitment to that mission in the highest esteem, and our men's basketball coach has the unique responsibility of reflecting that on and off the court."

After four years with the Explorers, Howard returned to his alma mater in 2008 as an assistant coach for the Dragons until 2012, when he moved over to Xavier as an assistant. 

Following one season with Xavier, Howard returned to Philadelphia as an assistant on Jay Wright's staff, where he experienced two national championships.

"Ashley is an outstanding coach who made a great impact on our program and University in his five years with us," Wright said. "His passion for mentoring young men and teaching skill has been invaluable in our team's development. La Salle has made a terrific selection and all of us at Villanova are thrilled for Ashley, Ariana and Journey as they embark on this new phase of Ash's career."

Giannini's 14-year tenure with La Salle ended in late March when he and the university "mutually agreed to part ways."

Dr. John Giannini out after 14 years as La Salle's head coach

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Dr. John Giannini out after 14 years as La Salle's head coach

After 14 years as the head coach, Dr. John Giannini is out at La Salle.

The university and head coach "mutually agreed to part ways," the school said in a statement.

Giannini will be best remembered for leading the Explorers to the Sweet 16 in the 2012-13 Cinderella season. 

He compiled a record of 212-226 at La Salle.

"I am truly blessed to have the relationships, challenges, and achievements that come from 29 years of being a head coach. In my time, I have witnessed hundreds of coaching changes involving many terrific coaches and schools," Giannini said in a statement. "Today, (athletic director) Bill Bradshaw and I mutually agreed that La Salle University could benefit from a new voice in leading the program. It is difficult to admit this but I have been given every effort possible for success and I have received nothing but support and encouragement from Bill and President (Colleen) Hanycz. 

"Greater things may be accomplished for this storied program and great university with the approach of a new coach. I am forever grateful, especially to my loyal staff and dedicated student-athletes. I look forward to my next challenge and La Salle's future success."