Juwan Howard consoles Tennessee's Kennedy Chandler after Michigan's upset

James Hawkins
The Detroit News

Indianapolis — Michigan coach Juwan Howard drew national attention for his actions in the postgame handshake line earlier this season. He did so once again on Saturday, but this time for a different reason.

After the final horn sounded inside Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Howard was making his way down the sideline when he stopped and embraced Tennessee freshman guard Kennedy Chandler.

Howard consoled an emotional Chandler, who broke down into tears and buried his face into Howard’s chest, and was there to offer support after the Wolverines’ 76-68 upset propelled them into the Sweet 16 and ended the Volunteers’ season.

“He said to keep my head up,” Chandler said. “It's tough for me, and he knew I wanted to get the win. I know him. I've played with his son since, like, fourth grade. So I’ve known him for a long time.

“He's a great coach. I love him. He told me to keep my head up and you played your heart out, that's what he told me.”

More: Wojo: Juwan Howard’s Wolverines are big-game hunters again, stagger Tennessee

It’s fitting so much attention was paid to this moment, considering what happened on Feb. 20 in Madison, Wisconsin, when Howard struck Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft in the head following a verbal altercation with Wisconsin coach Greg Gard. It was an ugly scene and Howard was suspended for five games and fined $40,000 as a result.

This time, Howard showed compassion and took on a father-figure role with Chandler, who led Tennessee with 19 points and nine assists. The video went viral on social media before Howard even celebrated the win with former Fab Five teammates Chris Webber and Ray Jackson as he made his way back to the locker room.

“Kennedy is an elite player, and he's one of the best guards in the country,” Howard said. “I got a chance to know Kenny back when my youngest son, Jett, and Kennedy played in AAU, and they won the LeBron James tournament in Ohio. So we had a relationship back then.

“Just watching his growth, I've always been impressed. We recruited him, unfortunately, we weren’t that lucky, but to see the output, the effort, the growth and being able to produce like that on the floor and how he led his team in a special way. I gave him words of encouragement. It shows his emotion, that he cares. As coaches, you appreciate that.”

Jones' status

Grad transfer guard DeVante’ Jones’ NCAA Tournament debut was cut short in his return from a concussion.

After missing Michigan’s first-round game against Colorado State, Jones only played 12 minutes in the first half and looked weary. He didn’t play at all in the second half and wasn’t on the bench because he was “receiving treatment” in the locker room, according to CBS sideline reporter Jamie Erdahl.

Howard was unsure about Jones’ status going forward, which means there will be a wait-and-see approach to see how the guard rotation shakes out for the Sweet 16 matchup.

“I was told by my trainer at halftime that he couldn't go in the second half, and that's all I can tell you,” he said. “With that, health is everything with us. It was hurtful to see that he couldn't come back in the second half because this kid, he wanted to be a part of — been living for this moment, first time being in the NCAA Tournament.

“But what he did in the first half was pretty impressive, too, not having practices, then coming out there and giving everything he could.”

Jones finished with two points (1-for-3 shooting), three rebounds, three assists, two turnovers and a minus-nine rating. He was replaced in the lineup after halftime by freshman guard Frankie Collins, who tallied two points, four rebounds, two assists, two turnovers and a plus-13 rating in 30 minutes of action.

“Frankie stepped up once again. I recruited him; I know what he can do,” Howard said. “They're different guards, but they both add something totally different that I feel puts a lot of pressure on our opponents.”


Twitter: @jamesbhawkins