New Michigan coach Juwan Howard seeks to build 'hardest-working staff'

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Ann Arbor — While the Michigan basketball head-coaching search has been over, the search for assistant coaches is still ongoing.

Michigan coach Juwan Howard said Thursday he hasn’t made any decisions regarding his staff and didn’t give a timeline for when he expects to have his assistants in place.

Juwan Howard is looking to build his staff as Michigan's new head coach.

“I've been talking (to candidates). We're doing a lot of communication about who are those candidates,” Howard said during his introductory press conference at Crisler Center. “I'm working hard to make sure I get the right staff in place to help lead those young men because it's all about them. It's not about me anymore. I want to be the best coach. I want to have the best, hardest-working staff to give them all the resources they need.”

Several names have surfaced as possible candidates, including New York Knicks assistant and Detroit native Howard Eisley, G-League’s Westchester Knicks head coach Mike Miller and former longtime Saint Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli, who has reportedly been offered a job, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Two names that can be crossed off the list, however, are Luke Yaklich and DeAndre Haynes, who both spent the past two seasons on former coach John Beilein’s staff.

Yaklich will reportedly be leaving Michigan to join Shaka Smart’s staff at Texas, while Haynes announced on Twitter Thursday morning that he won’t be returning for a third season.

“As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. My time here at the University of Michigan was nothing short of a dream,” Haynes posted in a thread of tweets. “I learned from one of the best coaches in the business, worked beside some of the best staff in the country, and had the opportunity to coach some of the most amazing young men. I got to coach on Monday night, then followed it up with a Sweet 16 appearance.

“For the past two years I have lived a piece of my ‘exceedingly and abundantly’ blessed life, and it will go down in history as some of my favorite memories. I want to wish Coach Juwan Howard the best of luck here at Michigan. As a Detroit native, to see you at the helm of this incredible program feels like a win for us all. Shock the world!”

Assistant coach DeAndre Haynes announced Thursday morning on Twitter that he won’t be returning for a third season.

The only assistant from last year’s staff whose status remains unclear is Saddi Washington, who has been at Michigan for three seasons and served as Beilein’s top assistant the last two years.

Washington, as well as director of basketball operations Chris Hunter, were on hand for Thursday’s news conference, which is a promising sign both will be retained. Strength and conditioning coach Jon Sanderson, who Howard announced he was bringing back last week, was also present.

Senior center Jon Teske and junior forward Isaiah Livers both said they’d like to have at least one familiar face on the coaching staff next season.

Livers noted having Washington back would help make a “smooth” transition as opposed to having a whole new group of coaches come in.

“Saddi can give Juwan his advice about how we used to do things,” Livers said. “Juwan is going to alter how he wants to do things. It's just going to be great because we have Saddi sitting right next to him and being his right-hand man.”

Given everything that comes with coaching at the college level — recruiting, monitoring academics, adhering to NCAA rules — and the fact Howard has spent the last 25 years in the NBA, Howard said he’s “exploring” hiring a former college head coach to help him navigate the transition.

“I thought this thing through thoroughly,” Howard said, “and I think I'm going to have the right staff moving forward that the team will be proud of.”

Recruiting road

Howard has received no shortage of public endorsements from former Michigan teammates Jalen Rose, Chris Webber and Jimmy King and the phenomenal job he’ll do when it comes to recruiting.

Yet, Howard noted all the rules and regulations that come with recruiting are going to provide the steepest learning curve in his return to the college game.

“Recruiting is going to be a challenge because I have to first understand all the rules and I want to continue to make sure that this culture does not take a step back,” he said. “I will learn and get into that rulebook of NCAA rules as far as what you are allowed to do and what you're not allowed to do. That's going to be one of the biggest challenges and, to my understanding, there are a lot of rules out there."

During Michigan’s coaching search, Rose and Webber were both adamant Howard will be able to bring McDonald’s All-Americans to Ann Arbor, which is something Beilein never did during his 12-year tenure.

Howard didn’t make any similar declarations and said his focus is to achieve what Beilein and his staff have throughout the years.

"I'm all eyes, I'm all ears for talent,” Howard said. “I haven't just pinpointed exactly if I'm going after five stars, one-and-dones or if I'm going to recruit three-star kids. As a staff, we will meet, and we will figure out what the solution moving forward to give us the best chance to win."

Slam dunks

As it stands, Michigan has three available scholarships for the 2019-20 season following the departures of Charles Matthews, Jordan Poole and Ignas Brazdeikis and former signee Jalen Wilson requesting his release.

When asked how he’s approaching the situation, Howard said he “had to go back and start recruiting again, quickly” but made no mention of how many open roster spots he plans to fill.

Howard said he did speak with signee Cole Bajema and his parents on the phone and confirmed Bajema remains committed to Michigan.

... During his opening remarks, athletic director Warde Manuel thanked Beilein, the program's all-time winningest coach, for all the success he brought Michigan during his 12 years before he opted to leave to coach the NBA's Cleveland Cavaliers.

"He will always remain a friend and I wish him much continued success in everything that he's doing," Manuel said.

When asked if there was anything he could've done to keep Beilein in Ann Arbor, Manuel said he didn't get the chance because he last spoke to Beilein after he already agreed to a deal with the Cavs on May 13.

"There was nothing for me to offer, to discuss, to talk (about)," Manuel said. "The surprise was there because not only the timing and things we talked about that I won't talk about here. He called and said he already accepted the job. Not I'm thinking about, I've already done it. So that leaves us to celebrate Juwan Howard being here. That's the way I look at it."

… Howard said he received a congratulatory text message from Michigan State coach Tom Izzo after he landed the Michigan job.

“I know Coach Izzo is extremely competitive just like myself,” Howard said. “I'm looking forward to having the chance for our team to line up against his team and, hey, let's battle.”

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins