Ex-Wolverines have 'great expectations' for Juwan Howard at Michigan
Detroit — Like most good friends, Jalen Rose and Juwan Howard call and text one another often.
But since Howard was hired as the Michigan men’s basketball coach in late May, Rose said the two have only occasionally communicated over the last three months.
“The reason why is there's going to be a whirlwind of things that I know he needs to adjust to as the leader of the program,” Rose said Monday at the Detroit Golf Club before the ninth annual Jalen Rose Leadership Academy celebrity golf classic, the signature fundraising event for Rose’s open enrollment, tuition-free public charter high school.
“(Former coach) John Beilein did a terrific job putting us back on the national landscape. So, for me, I just want to be there to support, be an alum, be a donor, be somebody that can come to the game and yell at the refs and do whatever I can to support the program moving forward."
Yet, as both an alumnus and former Fab Five teammate, Rose noted he has “great expectations” for Howard, a first-year head coach at any level, to maintain the level of success that Beilein had set at Michigan.
And that's no easy task considering the Wolverines are coming off back-to-back 30-win seasons for the first time in program history and have reached the Sweet 16 five times in the last seven years.
“He's going to continue to build what John was able to establish — having young people that play really well, but also handle themselves with a level of class and discipline and do what it takes to make us proud to be Wolverine fans and supporters,” Rose said.
“Of course, I would love for us to win a national championship and win the Big Ten title, but I like seeing the growth in young people. And once you establish an identity for the program, that to me is a success. I talk about this in the NBA how a lot of times most teams just don't have an identity. I think that he's going to be able to further what John was able to do.”
Like Rose, former Michigan standout Terry Mills said he “expects good things” out of the Wolverines this season and added Beilein left Howard “in good hands” with a returning core that consists of senior guard Zavier Simpson, senior center Jon Teske and junior forward Isaiah Livers.
While it remains to be seen what style of play Howard and his coaching staff will implement, Mills said he doesn’t anticipate much of an identity change and expects the Wolverines to be fundamentally sound, much like Howard’s own playing style throughout his career.
That was also a common characteristic for many of Beilein’s teams, who were known for taking care of the ball, valuing every possession and not being shy about letting it fly from 3-point range. And former Fab Five member Jimmy King and Rose both expect to see more of the same.
"The great thing about leadership is you don't really have to reinvent the wheel,” Rose said. “John had a certain style of play — the pace in space, high-volume 3-point attempts, low turnovers, positionless basketball. I anticipate a lot of that still being in place, probably a lot of pick-and-roll action, side pick-and-roll NBA style, a lot of dribble handoffs, that type of thing. Defense probably more up the floor — 75, 80 feet picking up. I think (Howard) just has to embody what (Beilein) did and continue to put his own flavor to it.”
King added he thinks there will be an uptick in post touches under Howard as well as “a healthy mix of establishing position in the post and then kicking out and swinging it to the opposite side or throwing cross-court passes instead of the more slant action that Beilein had.”
While Howard undoubtedly has the unenviable task of succeeding the program’s all-time winningest coach, King said his former college teammate won’t wilt in Beilein’s shadow.
"I think he's used to the pressure being an All-American out of high school, at the collegiate level, NBA All-Star, the pressure of coaching on the NBA level,” King said. “I think it's going to be more excitement than anything. It's his first time as a head coach, so there are some different things that I'm sure he's going to learn and have to cut his teeth on just like any other head coach.”
But when it comes to former NBA players returning to coach in the college ranks, more tend to flop, like Isiah Thomas at Florida International and Chris Mullin at St. John’s, than flourish, like Fred Hoiberg at Iowa State.
Yet, Howard has several things working in his favor to join the latter group. He spent six seasons working his way up the Miami Heat coaching ladder under the tutelage of Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley, and inherits a stable situation where a solid foundation is already in place.
“I think one of the things that's going to allow Juwan to do a great job is his philosophy is going to be a lot like John's. So, what was already established for him I think allows him to have a turnkey scenario where he can come in and put his seasoning on it, put his imprint on what he wants the program to look like,” Rose said. “I think his work ethic, his intelligence, his experience, his ability to challenge the young people — that's what a lot of this is, challenging you to be the best version of yourself. I think he's going to have that.”
Not to mention Howard had several NBA options — he interviewed for several head jobs in the spring and even turned down an associate head-coaching position with the Minnesota Timberwolves — before he chose to make his return to Ann Arbor.
"I think it'll be different for him because of the fact he really wanted this job. This is something he wanted to do,” Mills said. “I don't think he has any passion on trying to return back to the NBA. This is what he wants to do. He has a lot of people, even myself, behind him, so I think he's going to succeed."