Why Juwan Howard will be successful in college

NBA Draft Charles Matthews Jordan Poole (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
NBA Draft Charles Matthews Jordan Poole (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) /

The Michigan Wolverines announced that former Wolverine and Miami Heat Assistant Juwan Howard has been named head coach of the school’s basketball team

After John Beilein decided to leave the Michigan Wolverines to fill the head coaching vacancy with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the school’s basketball program and its supporters were left speechless.

The coach spent 12 seasons with the university, leading them to two trips to the national championship game and two Big Ten Tournament titles, and just like that he was gone. It wasn’t long before the University of Michigan found a new head coach though, signing Miami Heat assistant Juwan Howard to a five-year deal worth just over $2 million annually.


Some Michigan fans fear that Howard is a huge step down from John Beilein, and their concerns are valid. Beilein was the Big Ten Coach of the Year in 2014 and was awarded the Coach Wooden “Keys to Life” Award, given to the NCAA coach who demonstrates exemplary leadership both on and off the court. Juwan Howard, on the other hand, has never blown a whistle as a head coach in his entire career and has no experience coaching at the college level at all.

However, those jeers will likely to turn into cheers as Juwan Howard has all the tools necessary to make a smooth and successful transition from the NBA to the NCAA.

One attribute that Howard possesses that will aid in the molding of his head coaching career is the fact that he is a former player. Juwan was a star basketball player from as early as high school, being named a McDonald’s All-American in 1991.

A widely coveted recruit himself, Howard chose to play his college ball at Michigan in a star-studded recruiting class that quickly became a media and cultural icon known as the “Fab Five.”

As a Wolverine, Howard averaged 15.3 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists throughout his three-year college career before forgoing his remaining year of NCAA eligibility to declare for the 1994 NBA Draft. He currently ranks 20th all-time in scoring and 11th in rebounding for the Michigan Wolverines.

His outstanding performance on the national stage led to him being selected 5th in the draft by the Washington Bullets, starting his long and illustrious life as a professional.

Howard made an impact the second he stepped on the floor, earning NBA All-Rookie Second Team honors in his first year in the league when he posted 17.0 points and 8.4 rebounds per game. The following year would be the best of his 19-year career, becoming a member of the All-NBA Third Team and an All-Star for averaging a career-high in points (22.1) and assists (4.4) to go along with 8.1 boards a game.

However, it wasn’t until the very end of his journey as an athlete that he became an NBA Title. He was on two championship teams with the Miami Heat in 2012 and 2013.

Howard has also had the chance to learn from some of the best basketball minds the game has to offer over the course of his career. As an assistant within the Heat organization, he had the opportunity to learn from Erik Spoelstra and team President Pat Riley, two hugely successful head coaches who share seven NBA Championships between them. In most professions, you get your first job based on who taught you your skills, whether it be a university or another entity. Basketball should be no different.

Outside of his relationships that stem from his position as an assistant, Howard has had the privilege to play alongside some of the best players to grace the floor including the following: LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Chris Webber, Dirk Nowitzki, Dikembe Mutombo, Tracy McGrady, Steve Nash, and others.

His Michigan roots also make this hire a win. The Fab Five was the best team assembled in the university’s history, breaking ground in college sports with five first-year students in their starting lineup. Howard bleeds maize and blue and will do everything in his power to uphold the culture and tradition that the Crisler Center demands.

Make no mistake about it, Juwan Howard will be an excellent recruiter. Having grown up in the South Side of Chicago, Howard should be able to recruit top-talent from that market with success. He also played a significant role in getting the rest of the Fab Five to become Michigan Wolverines. He was the first of the five freshmen to sign their letter of intent and quickly began regularly calling guys like Chris Webber and Jalen Rose to convince them to join something special in Ann Arbor.

Rose approved of the hire for his alma-mater, praising his former teammate for his constant professionalism, even from his days as an amateur athlete.

"“And for those that don’t know, he was always the adult in the room amongst us,” Rose said. “You never saw Juwan Howard without a haircut, you’ve never seen him without a crease in his pants, you’ve never seen him undisciplined. And he was a technician out on the floor.”"

Howard will hope to replicate what Penny Hardaway is doing at Memphis. Despite failing to make the NCAA Tournament in his first season as the school’s coach, Hardaway was able to secure five of the nation’s top-100 recruits, including the country’s top prospect in James Wiseman. Memphis now has the top-ranked recruiting class in the NCAA with an unprecedented level of talent coming to a school that has not participated in March Madness since 2014.

Why, you ask? Because players respect coaches that played the game, and Howard fits that bill.

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While nothing is guaranteed in the unpredictable world of sports, one thing is for sure: Juwan Howard, at this point, is the best man for the job.