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Michigan men's basketball coach Juwan Howard says he's not exploring NBA opportunities

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

The NBA’s annual coaching carousel is spinning once again and a familiar name has surfaced: Michigan coach Juwan Howard.

According to a report from ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski on Monday, Howard, who is coming off his first season at his alma mater, is “gaining traction within front offices” as a potential coaching candidate.

While NBA teams may have interest in hiring the former Fab Five member away from the Wolverines, that interest doesn’t go both ways.

Michigan head coach Juwan Howard says he is not exploring a return to the NBA.

“There was a report of my name as a potential candidate for NBA coaching opportunities. While I am flattered, and know it will more than likely happen again, I am not exploring, seeking or listening,” Howard said in a statement posted on his Twitter account.

“I am the head coach at the University of Michigan. I am blessed to be working at the greatest university in the world. I am blessed to be guiding a group of wonderful young men. We have goals, dreams and championships to win. This is where my focus is.”

Howard, of course, has deep ties to the NBA. He played in the league for 19 years and spent six seasons as a well-respected assistant coach on Erik Spoelstra’s Miami Heat staff.

Howard, 47, interviewed for jobs with the Los Angeles Lakers, Minnesota Timberwolves and Cleveland Cavaliers before signing a five-year deal with the Wolverines in May 2019. The Cavaliers job ultimately went to former Michigan coach John Beilein, who left as the program’s winningest coach and whose departure opened the door for Howard’s return to Ann Arbor.

During Howard’s emotional introductory news conference last May, he called being the head coach at Michigan his “dream job” and the second biggest accomplishment in his life, behind getting his degree from the university.

“I've always been asked by friends and by family would I ever coach college basketball?” Howard said at the time. “My answer has always been there's only one job, there's only one school that I would look back and pursue at the collegiate level. That's the University of Michigan.”

When asked why the Michigan position was better than one at the NBA level, Howard said, “I don’t look back, I look forward.”

“I'm committed to this program,” Howard said. “This program, as you saw earlier with the tears, sweating inside of my shirt, I love this place.”

Howard guided the Wolverines to a 19-12 record and a ninth-place finish in the Big Ten last season — his first as a head coach at any level — before the postseason was cut short due to the coronavirus pandemic.

He will return three starters from last year’s team and is bringing in a freshman class that includes his son Jace, who will wear the same No. 25 jersey Juwan wore during his three-year career at Michigan. Howard has also assembled a four-member 2021 recruiting class that currently ranks No. 5 in the nation, according to the 247Sports composite, and his son Jett is a 2022 prospect.

jhawkins@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @jamesbhawkins