Columbus State University

Columbus State University hires a new women’s basketball head coach

Columbus State University has hired one of its own as new head coach for its women’s basketball team.

CSU promoted assistant coach Matt Houser to fill the vacancy created two months ago when Anita Howard left the NCAA Division II program to become head coach at Division I Georgia Southern.

“A combination of passion, vision and experience makes Matt Houser the perfect fit to lead the Columbus State University women’s basketball program into the future,” CSU athletics director Todd Reeser said in a news release Tuesday.

Houser was named interim head coach after Howard announced her departure. Reeser said he was impressed with Matt’s coaching and style.

“His intangibles will also establish a solid foundation for their off the court development. With this combination, I’m optimistic for the bright future of one of the most successful women’s basketball programs at the NCAA Division II level,” Reeser said.

Last season — his first in Columbus — Houser was in charge of the program’s recruiting, implementing scouting reports and strength and conditioning.

“I want to thank President Dr. Chris Markwood and Director of Athletics Todd Reeser for giving me the opportunity to coach at one of the most premier NCAA Division II universities in the nation,” Houser said in the news release. “The faculty, staff and Columbus community have welcomed my family and myself with arms wide open and we are excited to continue to be members of the Cougar family.”

Houser previously was an assistant coach at two California universities: Concordia and Azusa Pacific.

He helped Concordia improve from a losing record before his arrival to 23-7 in 2014-15 and a Sweet 16 appearance in the NAIA tournament. Then he helped Azusa Pacific go 71-23 from 2015-18, including two berths in the NCAA Division II tournament.

In five seasons as the head coach at Santa Margarita Catholic High School, he won two state titles and twice was named the California Interscholastic Federation 3A Coach of the Year (2010 and 2014), as well as the 2014 Orange County Coach of the Year.

Houser founded the youth basketball program OC Elite in 2006. It was consistently ranked among the top 100 in the nation and was one of only 20 to be sponsored by Adidas.

He played professionally for eight seasons overseas, including Germany, Switzerland, France and Spain. He was named to the Euro Cup All-Tournament Team and the All-Defensive Team in Switzerland.

In college, he played two seasons each at Chico State (1998-2000) and Irvine Valley (1996-98). He led Irvine to a conference championship and was selected as one of the top 75 junior college players in California.

Now, Houser has the responsibility of continuing CSU’s tradition of success in women’s basketball. In 30 years, the program has 24 winnings seasons, including 14 seasons with 20 wins. It also has won a combined 11 regular-season and tournament championships in the Peach Belt Conference and has reached the NCAA tournament 11 times.

Houser is the program’s fourth head coach. The Cougars went 367-231 from 1989-2008 under Jay Sparks, 141-61 from 2008-16 under Jonathan Norton and 66-25 from 2016-19 under Howard.

Ledger-Enquirer staff writer Mark Rice covers education and other issues related to youth. He also writes feature stories about any compelling topic. He has been reporting in Columbus and the Chattahoochee Valley for more than a quarter-century. He welcomes your local news tips and questions.