Juwan Howard gets shot to lead Heat – and his son

Ira Winderman
South Florida Sun Sentinel
Juwan Howard

Orlando, Fla. — A story of personal growth and family pride is playing out for the Miami Heat. No matter the results from coming days and weeks, Juwan Howard will emerge from July ahead of the game.

Because the former Michigan Wolverine and NBA All-Star forward is getting his first chance to lead on the sidelines.

And to lead his son.

"Now I'm having the opportunity to coach my son on the basketball court on a professional level, it's a dream come true," Howard said of his son, Juwan Howard Jr., the former University of Detroit guard who began his professional career this past season with a brief stint in Spain before a foot injury.

After previously assisting during summer league, the elder Howard is getting his first taste of a lead role this summer, guiding the Heat in the Orlando Pro Summer League and then moving on to the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas.

"This is a great opportunity for me," said Howard, who has been an assistant coach to Erik Spoelstra the past three seasons. "I've been looking forward to this opportunity. That's the reason why I'm here in coaching. I started three years ago because I have a passion for the game of basketball. Now being a former player, it's the next level, that I'm learning the game from a different eye now."

With an eye on his son, among the 19 prospects working this summer with the Heat.

"When I see him out there," Howard, 42, said, "I'm saying, 'I'm old. I've got really old.'"

But still as in charge as ever.

"We were doing a drill and his son did something," Heat guard Josh Richardson said. "He came over like, 'Junior! Stop taking it easy! Go again!' I mean, just a little bit father-and-son stuff. It's funny to watch."

Just a father demanding the same level of professionalism that carried him through a 19-year career that ended with a Heat championship glow.

"I recall last summer, when we had him for last year's summer league," Howard said of his son, "and I was talking to the coaching staff, one thing they always said was, 'Wow, you're really hard on Junior.' And it's like, I guess, a natural reaction. But I just hope that he always remembers that, hey, first, I love him, but that I'm going to hold him in the same standards like I hold everyone else."

Duly noted.

"My dad is definitely not going to take it lighter on me," Howard Jr. said. "In person, he will be quiet. But at home, he will not let me get away with anything, not even tying my shoe wrong.

Juwan Howard Jr.

"My dad has been in the game for 19 years in the NBA. You have to know what you're talking about. You have to know what you're doing. He keeps that professional wisdom."

Heat forward Justise Winslow said Coach Howard makes a point of sharing that wisdom, making him more than suited for this summer tryout.

"He's been great," Winslow said. "Just knowing him last year, he's kind of a players' coach. He's always that guy when you don't want to talk to Spo, is kind of that guy you can go to. Just having that voice and having that even be louder and more the centerpiece of the team as a head coach, I think it's helping him, helping him grow as a coach, as well."

After those 19 NBA seasons and more than $150 million in career earnings, there is no reason to be working the sidelines on the Magic's practice court at the Amway Center during the dog days of July.

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Except there's apparently no place he'd rather be.

"I love basketball," he said. "I've enjoyed it ever since I was a 6-year-old, when I picked up the ball. Being a baseball lover, I started to listen to my high school basketball coach when I was a junior in high school and he was like, 'You know what son, I know you love baseball, but I think basketball is where it's at.' And from then on, I got locked in and it hasn't stopped.

"That love and passion for the game hasn't stopped. What I'm doing now is giving back to the game. All the coaches that I've played for, learned for 19 years how to play the game the right way, it's my time to serve and give back to a lot of players what those coaches taught me."