One name is popping back up on NBA coaching radars as we get set for the dance in March. That name, none other than Michigan Wolverines coach Juwan Howard.
Howard has led the Michigan Wolverines to a 20-4 record this year and they were the regular season Big Ten champions after an impressive 14-3 mark in conference play. Michigan was rewarded for their play by earning a one seed in the NCAA Tournament. With all the early successes for Howard at Michigan, would he entertain the idea of leaving Ann Arbor after two years to go back to the NBA?
Like the feel good story of Patrick Ewing returning to his alma mater at Georgetown and coaching them on an improbable run through the Big East Tournament, Juwan Howard is back at his alma mater doing big things for Michigan.
Juwan Howard NBA or Juwan Howard Michigan?
After spending 2013-2019 on the Miami Heat bench as an assistant, Howard was building up a profile with the intention of landing an NBA coaching gig. It never came to fruition. Instead, Howard took over for John Beilein who left Michigan in 2019 for an NBA head coaching spot with the Cleveland Cavaliers (it backfired). Two years in and the returns for Michigan have been more than expected with what they’ve gotten from Howard.
This isn’t Juwan Howard coaching at a random power conference school (random for him) like Oklahoma or Seton Hall or California. Howard was born on the south side of Chicago and took his talents to Michigan where he was a member of the “Fab Five.” He’s at his alma mater a place he called home when he was in college.
The NBA may come knocking at the door and the temptation NCAA Tournament fever puts Juwan Howard back in NBA coaching carousel may be great (and the money) but Juwan Howard has been a natural sliding into the college coaching ranks. While he shut down the idea this past summer of going to the NBA to coach, it obviously can’t be ruled out for good.
The trump card within all of this is where Howard is at. When you hear him speak about coaching at Michigan, being the head coach of the program, you get the sense this is the dream job scenario for Howard. There’s just a drastic difference in coaching college basketball compared to the NBA and maybe the dream for Howard is to coach in the association someday. But it’s hard to imagine him leaving Michigan, his alma mater, after just two years given how successful they have been so far.
If Juwan Howard was having this same success but at any other power conference program, I’d be more enticed to believe he could depart for an NBA job as early as this offseason if the opportunity presented itself. Because he’s at Michigan with the Wolverines, doing it at the place where he once wore the uniform, it’s hard to see Howard leaving anytime soon.