The emotions in the Crisler Center were overflowing when Juwan Howard was introduced as the 17th men’s basketball head coach for the University of Michigan Wolverines. With his family, friends and a host of important university figures in attendance, Howard was reduced to tears and speechless as Michigan’s athletic director Warde Manuel brought him to the podium.
Before that moment, the last time Howard had a press conference in the building was in 1994 when he declared for the NBA draft.
While the emotions of the “feel good” moment were flowing, Howard’s press conference failed to address several key details about the current state of the team as well as a plan of action for the future. The state of the coaching staff is one topic on which Howard didn’t offer much feedback, but reports from media outlets have already detailed which assistants would be retained from former coach John Beilein’s staff.
Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports has reported that Texas’ Shaka Smart has officially brought former Michigan assistant Luke Yaklich on to his staff. Yaklich will assume the role of associate head coach.
Yaklich, who joined the Wolverines staff under Beilein in 2017, reportedly interviewed for the vacant spot at Michigan. DeAndre Haynes, who was also a part of Beilein’s staff, announced his departure from the program via Twitter stating that his time at Michigan was “nothing short of a dream.” Saddi Washington joined Beilein’s staff in 2016 and is reportedly the only assistant retained.
When asked about the current state of his staff, Howard offered short remarks.
“I’ve been talking…doing a lot of communication about those candidates. At this moment I’m not ready to answer that question,” Howard said. “I’m working hard to make sure I get the right staff in place to help lead those young men back there.”
The young men that Howard was referring to were the several members of the Michigan basketball team that were in attendance to hear their new coach.
Howard was also short on his plan to recruit All-American athletes to the program. It was an issue brought to attention by his former teammates and “Fab Five” members Jalen Rose, Chris Webber, and Jimmy King. While all three men praised the work that John Beilein did while coaching at Michigan, they all mentioned the lack of All-American players that the university landed. With Michigan’s new coach being a former All-American and two-time NBA champion with the Miami Heat, they all expressed, in their own way, how it will give Howard an advantage in landing those recruits.
When I asked Howard how he planned to bring those recruits in after what his former teammates professed, Howard gave a pretty generic answer.
“I’m all eyes; I’m all ears to talent,” said Howard. “I haven’t just pinpointed exactly if I’m going after 5-stars — “one and done’s” — or I’m going to recruit 3-star kids. As a staff, we will meet, and we will figure out what is the best solution moving forward to give us the best chance to win.”
Whether Howard is the right fit for the job remains to be seen, and Manuel knows that this hire is a gamble.
“I’mma gamble with people who love this place the way he does,” said Manuel.
When former coach John Beilein abruptly left the program in the fashion that he did, Michigan had to begin their search for a replacement coach immediately. Beilein, the winningest head coach in the program’s history, shockingly left to accept a five-year contract as head coach with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
According to Manuel, he said Beilein called to inform him that he accepted the position, and in Manuel’s eyes, there was nothing else to discuss.
“That is what has us here celebrating Juwan today!” said Manuel.
The verdict is out on whether Howard will be the right person to lead the program to prosperity. Without the experience as a collegiate head coach, there are looming questions about his course of action moving forward.
One thing is for certain, with the unexpected departure of their previous coach, bringing someone onboard whom the university feels will be dedicated to the job is the appropriate decision. Howard reassured the Michigan fanbase near the end of the discussion as he expressed his dedication, and the dedication of his family, to the program.
“We’re all in. We’re a Michigan Family.”