After about 10 days, the University of Michigan men's basketball has found their new head coach, and I am cautiously optimistic.
The Wolverines hired the first of the "Fab Five" players to sign back in the day, Juwan Howard. I loved Howard when he was a player on the team. His game was so admirable, and impressionable, to me as a young player. He fought hard on the block. He worked the low post. He was an excellent rebounder. He could run the floor. He played defense and he put in work every game. He was the hardest worker on the team, and he also happened to be tremendously skilled. He was also the most mature guy on the team, even when he was a freshman. Chris Webber was the best player, Jalen Rose had the swagger, Jimmy King was an explosive athlete and Ray Jackson had that dog in him. Juwan Howard was the glue that kept them together. He was a great, great Wolverine.
Howard then went on to have a very solid NBA career, playing more than a decade, I'm sure he made at least one all star team, won a couple of titles and became a solid assistant coach for the Miami Heat. When the Michigan job opened, unexpectedly, I didn't even think of Howard until Jalen Rose said something about it on his show. Then Chris Webber said something during an NBA playoff broadcast. Reggie Miller echoed his statement that night. Then Jimmy King came out and said something. When all these people, who I respect, started to talk about him for the job, I became intrigued. I found out that he has been working with the bigs on the Heat, and that he has also been picking the brain of head coach Erik Spoelstra, who I adore, and Pat Riley. If you are going to learn coaching from any 2 guys in the NBA, I would think that Spoelstra and Riley are at, or near, the top.
By the time all this news came out, and after I did my personal research, I was on board. Then, Billy Donovan pulled his name, and I started to stump for Howard. I told my dad at my son's baseball game this past Sunday, I hope Juwan Howard gets named the new head coach no later than Wednesday. Well, that was exactly when it happened. But, as I stated at the top, I have good and not so good feelings on this hire.
Lets get the bad out of the way first. Howard has zero head coaching experience. Now, that isn't that bad, he has been an assistant in the NBA for going on 5 years now. But, he is taking over a team that was in the title game 2 years ago and started out last season with 17 straight wins. Michigan also played a very complex offense that was hard for opposing teams to figure out. Michigan will, most likely, lose many of the assistants that worked under John Beilein, mainly Luke Yaklich. He turned them into the stellar defensive team they were last year. Michigan is also losing 3 starters from last season, and their top recruit decommited when Beilein left for the Cavs job. These are my only concerns.
As far as what I am hyped about, what I love about this hire. They got a big name. While Juwan Howard may not have been a hot coaching candidate at the current moment, his time was coming. He was clearly working his way to becoming a head coach. He was putting in the grunt work. Michigan is also getting one of their greatest basketball players ever to come back and coach the team he played for. That sense of pride and want and will to win at your alma mater is humongous. He can recruit. I know he hasn't done it yet, but when he was 17, he was the one that convinced the "Fab Five" to get together. He was the first to sign his letter, and after that, he was in the ear of the other 4 guys pretty much instantly. He got them to come there even before they were given money while at the school. Everywhere Howard has been, for the most part, he has been on a winning team. I'm sure he will want that to continue. I have faith that, even if Yaklich does leave, Saddi Washington will stay, and he is a key assistant. I also think Howard will be able to lure good to great assistant coaches.
Back to the recruiting for a second. He played and coached guys like LeBron James and Dwayne Wade. They both adore him, they pushed for him to get this job and they have 2 young sons that will be college basketball players very soon. I'm sure they will want their kids to play for a coach that they know and like. Also, there are a bunch of other kids out there with parents like me who were big time fans of the "Fab Five", and they may nudge their kids to, at least, consider Michigan because of Howard's presence.
What makes me most confident in the hire, he already has a very good team in place. The transition to this next season should be smooth-ish. He has a floor general in Zaiver Simpson. He has his modern big in Jon Teske. David DeJulius was a top level recruit last year. Brandon Johns was Mr. Michigan basketball. Colin Castleton got quality time. And they have a solid class coming in, even if Jalen Wilson doesn't go back.
I'm letting myself get excited by the Juwan Howard hiring. In fact, I like this hire more than when they hired Jim Harbaugh as head football coach 5 years ago. Don't get me wrong, I liked that too, I just have a different, more excited feel for the Juwan Howard hiring. He was a great choice and I hope he has a tremendous amount of success, obviously. This has been an odd, and sometimes rough, offseason for Michigan basketball. But, the hiring if Juwan Howard eases a good amount of that fear. Now lets see how he does.
Ty is the Pop Culture editor for SeedSing, the other host of the X Millennial Man Podcast, and the greatest basketball writer on the internet.
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