It took longer than expected and it wasn’t the first choice on everyone’s board but Michigan basketball has its new head coach. According to multiple reports, it’s former Fab Five standout and Miami Heat assistant coach, Juwan Howard.
Howard is one of the most respected and best-known individuals in basketball. He was a McDonald’s All-American in high school and then stamped his spot in basketball lore when he became the first of the five freshmen to sign with Michigan in 1991 which went onto become the most famous college basketball squad of all-time, the Fab Five.
Howard spent three years in Ann Arbor and then went on to be the fifth overall pick in the 1994 NBA Draft to the Washington Bullets. For the next 20 years, the former Wolverine standout was in the league.
Playing for eight different teams, including Denver and Dallas at two different times. And it wasn’t all like his final seasons in Miami. He averaged 13.8 points and 6.1 rebounds per game during his career, was an All-Star and 3rd Team All-NBA selection in 1996, and won himself two NBA Championships with LeBron James and Dwayne Wade in Miami in 2012 and 2013.
Following that 2013 championship, Howard joined the Heat coaching staff. He spent seven years as an assistant coach and also coached the summer league team in 2016.
But his playing career and assistant career doesn’t say a ton about what his head coaching career will be like. This is his first time being a head coach, so skepticism is warranted. Though he is easily one of the most respected names in the NBA and a player that every big name you could imagine is endorsing for this job, how will he be on the day to day grind and the X’s and O’s?
Howard was known as a pro’s pro and a coach on the court. But real experience is the best experience. That is why I fully expect Michigan to do what it can to hold onto its current assistants and/or load up the staff with experienced assistants to help Howard get his footing. And that’s not for only being a head coach but also getting back into the college game. It’s a different world from the college game of the early 90’s.
Another big question mark will be how will Howard be on the recruiting trail? He has the NBA experience and love, knows the league, played at the highest level in college, and loves the university. It’s a great combination to sell the nation’s top talent. Just ask Penny Hardaway.
But just having the best talent doesn’t always equate to winning. John Calipari has been signing 3-5 of the best players in the country every year and only has one ring to show for it (2012). Though he never won the big one, John Beilein came extremely close twice to cutting down the final nets and made a name for himself by signing underrated talent, winning conference championships and making tournament runs. It can go either way.
Will Howard rely more on developing talent long term or focusing on one-and-dones? Can he find that happy medium?
Howard’s success on the recruiting trail will be a determining factor in his time back in Ann Arbor. The first calls he’s likely to make (or has probably already made) will be to former Michigan commit and top 50 recruit SF Jalen Wilson, current signee F Cole Bajema, and international transfer F Franz Wagner.
There are plenty of questions surrounding this hire by Warde Manual but it’s time to be excited if you’re a Michigan fan. Howard is a rising star as an NBA assistant and has been tied to multiple head coaching jobs already, he loves his school, has worked along one of the best coaches in basketball history (Pat Riley) and has the world of NBA stars and Michigan alums backing this move.
Howard’s the man. What do you think? Will he be able to keep the Michigan program among the tops in the nation? Can he take the program to Fab Five-like levels? Or will the first time head coaching gig be too much to handle? Let us know in the comment section below!
Photo Credit: Miami Heat