GAINESVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Atlanta Dream guard Rhyne Howard now has a second job.
Howard formally joined Florida’s coaching staff Monday, landing on the bench with a college competitor and her mother’s alma mater.
The former Kentucky standout and the No. 1 pick in the 2022 WNBA draft will be an assistant under Gators coach Kelly Rae Finley and serve as the team’s director of player personnel. She will work with the Gators during the WNBA’s offseason, which coincides with the collegiate season.
Howard’s mother, Rhvonja “RJ” Avery, played for Florida from 1987 to 1991 and served as team captain in her final year. She still ranks in the top 10 in several categories, including career steals (192) and field-goal percentage (.521).
“When you really think about it, everything is full circle,” Howard said. “My mom was a Gator herself and I have been on this campus multiple times. But to actually be able to wear the orange and blue, I know it’s making her proud, I know it’s making everyone who thought I was originally going to be a Florida Gator proud.
“I always knew at some point that I would have the connection back with this school and just to be here and to be loved and to feel how much of a family it is already just confirmed all that.”
Howard averaged 16.2 points per game as a rookie with the Dream in 2022, when she was named to the WNBA All-Star team and was the league’s Rookie of the Year. She averaged 17.5 points this season, with the Dream losing in the opening round of the playoffs.
She was born and raised in Tennessee but always felt a connection to Florida. Finley was more than eager to bring her aboard to fill a vacant coaching position and potentially help the Gators reach the NCAA Tournament for the second time in three years.
“It has always been important to me that we surround our student-athletes with people who can help equip them with the skills necessary to succeed as professionals on and off the court,” Finley said. “Rhyne is humble, competitive, thoughtful and driven.
“She is living many of our student-athlete’s dreams. Her knowledge of the game combined with her ability to teach and connect with them on and off the court will elevate our program.”