'Feels great to be coming home': Juwan Howard, Michigan agree on five-year deal

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Michigan has turned to its past to guide its future.

Juwan Howard, a former Michigan star and member of the Fab Five, agreed to a five-year deal Wednesday to become the new head coach of the men's basketball program.

Howard's compensation will begin at $2 million annually, according to the basic terms of his contract announced by the school.

Athletic director Warde Manuel interviewed Howard in Miami on Tuesday, and an offer was made the next day.

Howard's hiring brings an end to Michigan's national search that began on May 13 when John Beilein, the program’s all-time winningest coach, left for the same position with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

"I am very excited about the opportunity to lead the University of Michigan's storied basketball program," Howard said in a statement. "I have been very fortunate to be part of a great championship organization in the Miami Heat for the last nine years — three as a player and six as a coach. It was always going to take something incredibly special to for me to leave Miami; however, I know in my heart this is the right place and the right time.

"As a 'Michigan Man' I know the place our program has in college basketball and I embrace the chance to build onto that history and lead us to championships both in the Big Ten and national level. We will continue to develop young men on the court, in the classroom and in the community that our fan base will continue to be proud of.

"I want to sincerely thank Warde Manuel, President Mark Schlissel and all the great people at the University for entrusting me with this opportunity. I cannot wait to get started.

"It feels great to be coming home. Go Blue!"

Juwan Howard

A press conference to introduce Howard, 46, will be next week in Ann Arbor. 

During his 12 years in Ann Arbor, Beilein revived the program and turned into a perennial contender. He recorded 278 wins, nine 20-plus win seasons and nine NCAA Tournament appearances, and hung several banners along the way, including two Big Ten regular-season championships, two conference tournament titles, and two Final Four appearances — both in the national title game.

Above all, Beilein was well respected for the culture he instilled at Michigan and was praised for running one of the cleanest programs in the nation.

Now it’s up to Howard, the prominent alumnus who has never been a head coach at any level, to continue the success and maintain the standard.

"We have found someone with high integrity, great character and a coach who has unbelievable knowledge of the game of basketball," Manuel said in a statement. "Juwan has proven himself to be a tremendous leader, a wonderful communicator and a developer of talent. We couldn't have asked for a better role model for the young men in our program. We are excited to welcome back a member of the family to Ann Arbor."

Howard’s resume boasts no shortage of accolades from his playing days. He starred at Michigan from 1991-94 and was part of the quintet — along with Ray Jackson, Jimmy King, Jalen Rose and Chris Webber — that led the Wolverines to back-to-back national title games in 1992 and 1993.

Howard picked Michigan after a standout career at Chicago Vocational Career Academy. He grew up in Chicago’s South Side and was raised by his grandmother, Jannie Mae Howard, who protected him from bad influences.

After averaging 15.3 points and 7.5 rebounds for his Michigan career, Howard left after his junior season and was the No. 5 pick in the 1994 NBA Draft. That was the start of a 19-year NBA career that he wrapped up as a member of Miami’s championship-winning teams in 2012 and 2013.

Michigan's Fab Five from left, Jimmy King, Juwan Howard, Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and Ray Jackson are shown in this November 1991 photo in Ann Arbor.

When it comes to the coaching portion of Howard’s resume, though, there’s not an abundance of experience. Following his retirement in 2013, he became an assistant on Heat coach Erik Spoelstra's staff and has been lauded for his work with the defense and helping develop Miami’s big men.

Howard coached the Heat's 2016 Summer League team, his lone experience as a head coach on the NBA level. He has not previously coached collegiately and is unproven as a recruiter.

Still, Howard is a respected figure throughout the NBA and was a candidate for several head-coaching positions this spring, interviewing with the Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Cavaliers.

"Juwan is an absolute star as a person, player and coach," Spoelstra said in a statement. "I feel he is more than ready. He is a terrific leader and mentor, which translates very well to the collegiate level."

"He will forever be a champion and part of the Heat family and I am excited to see him take the next step."

Howard joins a growing list of former NBA players who have taken over at their alma maters or other colleges. Many have flopped, like Chris Mullin (St. John’s), Isiah Thomas (FIU) and Clyde Drexler (Houston), and only a handful have flourished, like Fred Hoiberg (Iowa State) and Dan Majerle (Grand Canyon).

Providence’s Ed Cooley interviewed for the position on Monday, but reportedly wasn’t offered the job. Michigan assistant coaches Luke Yaklich and Saddi Washington also spoke with Manuel last week.

Throughout the search, Howard received endorsements from former NBA teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade as well as former Fab Five teammates King, Rose and Webber for his pedigree, professionalism, relationships and ties with the university.

“I'll tell you this, I know he would love for his house to be on State Street (in Ann Arbor). He would live on campus, stay there and retire an old man,” Webber said of Howard on the “Rich Eisen Show” Tuesday. “I know that that's what he wants. I know that there's no other job in the world that he would want more than that. I know there is nothing he would put his soul into more than his wife and his kids than that job.

“He's been waiting for this opportunity.”

Juwan Howard in the NBA

April 1994: Declares for NBA Draft after three seasons at Michigan.

June 29, 1994: Drafted in the first round, No. 5 overall, by the Washington Bullets.

Feb. 22, 2001: Traded to the Dallas Mavericks.

Feb. 21, 2002: Traded to the Denver Nuggets.

July 16, 2003: Signed by the Orlando Magic as a free agent.

June 29, 2004: Traded to the Houston Rockets.

June 14, 2007: Traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves.

Nov. 1, 2007: Signed by the Dallas Mavericks as a free agent after being waived by the Timberwolves.

Oct. 3, 2008: Signed by the Denver Nuggets as a free agent.

Dec. 12, 2008: Signed by the Charlotte Bobcats as a free agent after being waived by Nuggets.

Sept. 17, 2009: Signed by the Portland Trail Blazers as a free agent.

July 20, 2010: Signed by the Miami Heat as a free agent.

September 2013: Named Heat assistant coach.


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins