'Up for the task': Basketball alums herald Juwan Howard's arrival as Michigan coach
Ann Arbor — When Terry Mills was in the NBA, he was called upon to help recruit Juwan Howard to come to Michigan Almost 30 years later, he was on the phone again with Howard, looking to help lure Howard back to Ann Arbor as the Wolverines’ next head coach.
Howard didn’t need much prodding this time either, but Mills wanted to give his input on what the job entailed, especially with Howard making the jump from the NBA to college coaching, where he has no experience, having only been an assistant coach with the Miami Heat for the past six seasons.
“The transition is that you’re in charge of 13 young men and it’s a full-time job,” Mills said Thursday, after Howard’s introductory news conference at Crisler Center. “In the NBA, you can practice and come home and spend time with your family. It’s going to be a lot of game-management situations, but I think he’s up for the task.”
Mills was among a slew of current and former Michigan players on hand for Howard’s introduction. Among the alumni were Howard’s former Fab Five teammate Jimmy King, Antoine Joubert and Tim McCormick.
While much of the optimism abounded about Howard’s coaching acumen and recruiting ability, the major takeaway of the day was Howard’s emotion — what Howard called “tears of joy” — before he was introduced by athletic director Warde Manuel.
King was right there with him.
“It’s an exciting day. As you can see, Juwan was very emotional up there and I got a little teary-eyed myself, but that’s what it’s about: family, the student-athletes who are here now and moving the program forward,” King said. “It’s an emotional day and it’s been a long time. We had a lot of blood, sweat and tears put into this program and like Warde said, it’s about Juwan Howard as the Michigan head basketball coach moving forward.”
There’s been plenty made about Howard's lack of experience as a head coach and what he’ll face in the Big Ten and how he’ll construct his coaching staff.
For what it’s worth, McCormick, an ESPN analyst who also played in the NBA, envisions success for Howard. The emotion that Howard showed embodied the spirit of the alums present and they rallied around him.
“In the history of Michigan basketball — and I’ve followed closely since the mid-1970s — Juwan Howard is at the top of my list in terms of character and basketball IQ,” McCormick said. “He really loves Michigan. I was very touched today and I would get emotional on something like that. To see tears of joy in his eyes was really an awesome thing.”
McCormick recalled seeing Howard in high school and the affinity for picking up small pointers quickly. That translates well into processing things as a coach and being able to relay those things on the fly to his players.
“His senior year in high school, he was on a recruiting visit and I showed him my jump-hook that I learned through all the years in the NBA. I practiced it thousands of times,” McCormick recalled. “The next time I saw him, his jump-hook was better than mine. I said this guy is very dialed-in and has a huge basketball IQ and that showed me a lot about him.”
In terms of recruiting, Howard will have to get back to what he started with the Fab Five — when he was the first to commit to the Wolverines and helped convince Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Ray Jackson and King to join him at Michigan.
Howard admitted that he didn’t think seriously about being a head coach until his 17th season in the NBA, but he’s had the traits for much longer.
“He was always the coach on the floor. Being recruited and going through the process as a 17-year-old kid and having the wherewithal to deal with that emotionally yourself and then recruiting players after you made the decision to recruit players to play with you speaks to his character,” King said. “With (20-plus) years of experience in the NBA, it’s even better now.
“He’s going to be an emotional coach, but it’s a good balance of emotional and accountability. He’s going to want the best for them and give them what they need. Like Warde said, I’m not worried about the Xs and Os — his record speaks for itself.”