Detroit — Chris Webber, the centerpiece of Michigan’s famed Fab Five, is on board with having the group reunited at Michigan, especially now that teammate Juwan Howard is coaching the Wolverines’ basketball team.
Webber, in Detroit on Tuesday as part the Aspen Institute’s Project Play Summit at the Detroit Marriott — held for the first time outside of Washington D.C. — to discuss youth sports nationally, said he plans to drop in soon to see Howard coach the Michigan basketball team at either a practice or game.
While at Michigan, Webber helped lead the Wolverines to the national title game in 1992 and 1993, but his ties to former booster Ed Martin and illegal payments led to scandal. And that led to the NCAA mandating a 10-year disassociation between Webber and Michigan, which ended 2013. The 1992 and 1993 Final Four banners were removed from the Crisler Center.
Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh invited Webber to be an honorary captain before the Penn State game last November, seemingly a first step toward Webber mending his relationship with university.
But with the hiring of Howard to replace John Beilein, the door has been opened wider for a reunion of the Fab Five that also includes, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson.
“Juwan’s there, so that’s a big thing,” Webber told The Detroit News when asked whether a Fab Five reunion is imminent. “We’d do anything for him. I would definitely hope (we return).
“I lobbied like hell to try to make sure his voice was heard. I know he’ll be a great coach. Definitely got to go check him out and watch him do his thing. I’m sure I’m going to see Juwan and the boys soon, hopefully, a game, practice, something.”
Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel recently told The News that he and Howard spoke during the interview process about a Fab Five reunion.
“Hopefully this season, if they feel they want to come back,” Manuel said. “We will welcome all of them back.”
Manuel said he doesn’t need Webber to apologize to the university.
“I’ve never gone there,” he said. “There are certain fans who feel he does. At this point in time, everything has been dealt with and settled. I don’t need anybody to apologize, unless they feel the need to apologize. That’s never come out of my mouth.”
Webber believes Howard was the best hire for Michigan because he can compete with Michigan State coach Tom Izzo on every level, including recruiting.
“Izzo is one of the best coaches,” Webber said. “(Howard) has name recognition. He’s the only one who can recruit with Izzo. He’s the only one that can say I’ve been in a locker room with your favorite player, LeBron James. He’s the only one who has been with Pat Riley and that type of system. He’s a 15-year NBA player. He’s a pretty good college player, if I do so say myself.
"He has the passion, experience and most importantly, he is one of these kids. There are a lot coaches that coach kids from these areas, but he’s from those areas. He’ll be one of their own coaching, which will be cool.”
Beilein returned Michigan to the highs of college basketball, taking the program to the national championship game in 2013 and 2018 and a Sweet 16 appearance last season. He has moved on to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“You can’t compare what Coach Beilein did,” Webber said. “I’ll never compare those two coaches, but I think Juwan is going to be a great coach and carve out his own legacy there.”
Webber said returning to Michigan last season as honorary captain for football was a moving experience.
“I felt a lot of love,” he said. “It will be cool (to return with the Fab Five). I never not felt love from Michigan alumni or students. It was an honor to go back. It was one of the best moments. I had a blast. I’ll be at a few more football games this year, so we’ll keep it going.”
Among the games Webber intends to attend — the Ohio State game at the end of the regular season.
“They’re going to be all right,” Webber said smiling while referencing the football team. “We’re going to do it this year.”