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Rhyne Howard starts coaching career with Florida in WNBA offseason

Rhyne Howard won the 2022 WNBA Rookie of the Year award. (Cooper Neill/NBAE via Getty Images)

Rhyne Howard is taking her talents to the sidelines, joining the Florida Gators’ coaching staff during the WNBA offseason.

Howard, who just finished her second season with the Atlanta Dream, will serve as an assistant coach as well as the team’s director of player personnel. While the former No. 1 overall pick was a standout player for Kentucky, she is joining the Wildcats’ SEC rivals for the 2023-24 season.

Florida is her mother’s alma mater, and Rhvonja “RJ” Avery still holds top-10 rankings in a number of categories from her career with the Gators from 1987 to 1991.

“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 is coming off of a solid sophomore season in the league, averaging 17.4 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game and helping the Dream to the WNBA playoffs. She improved upon her first season, in which she was named Rookie of the Year and a WNBA All-Star.

Gators head coach Kelly Finley Rae told the Associated Press that bringing Howard into the fold will help to elevate the program.

“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.”