Juwan Howard to Michigan: 3 thoughts

The Wolverines went and found themselves a Michigan man with Juwan Howard to replace John Beilein. It’s tough to follow the best head coach in school history, but I applaud Athletic Director Warde Manuel for going bold in his first major coaching hire in his three years at the school. Michigan could have kept things rolling by promoting an assistant coach or made a safe but uninspiring hire. The Wolverines are going for it all with Howard.

Michigan makes a splash

It’s refreshing to see an athletic department make a splash because the retread of coaches in all sports is a problem. The same coaches tend to get bounced around from job to job with middling success. People making a lot of these hires lack creativity, which sometimes leads to their demise. It’s fun to see teams actually go outside the box and do something different.

Sure, you could find yourselves in the Sweet 16 every once in a while and be happy, but why not take a chance on a guy who may be unproven but is hungry for success?

Look at Memphis. It could have sat around and had a decent roster with Tubby Smith as the head coach, but the Wildcats took a big swing with Penny Hardaway. Memphis is now back to national relevancy and has the #1 recruiting class in the country.

Like Hardaway, Howard should work his ass off with this job. He has a great deal of pride for Michigan basketball as a fella who is proud to be part of his alma mater, and this is his first time as a head coach at any level. This might be an absolute dream job for Howard, and you’d think he will do whatever it takes to be as successful as possible.

Low risk, high reward

I read some takes saying Michigan bringing in Howard is a high-risk, high-reward move. I agree with the high-reward part, but is it really that big of a risk? It’s difficult to completely destroy a respected program in college athletics, and Michigan basketball is as consistent as any team in the sport.

What are the odds Michigan wins a national championship under Howard? I’d say they’re pretty low because that’s incredibly difficult to do. A national title would not be surprising, but this Howard experiment being a complete disaster for Michigan would be a shocker.

What Beilein built at Michigan was impressive considering the Wolverines went through a stretch of a dozen or so years of irrelevancy, but the winning tradition should continue.

We’ll see how many of Beilein’s assistant coaches stick around. Luke Yaklich has been in charge of Michigan’s suffocating defense the last two years, so keeping him around would be significant.

Recruiting should improve

If you could have one criticism of Beilein, it would be recruiting. Michigan signed just one five-star prospect under him with Glenn Robinson III in the 2012 class.

The ultimate, yet highly unlikely, goal for Michigan is for Howard to do what Hardaway is doing. Yes, Memphis was not all that impressive last season, but the program is set up to be very good for a long time assuming this keeps up.

While it’s unfair to expect Howard to show that type of immediate success on the recruiting trail, it’s fair to expect Michigan recruiting to improve under Howard.

Why? Because Howard was part of the Fab-Freakin-Five. How awesome is that? I was not alive during the Fab Five’s run, but even I know that group was the coolest collection of college basketball players to step onto the court. The Fab Five was cool, and high school kids like cool stuff.

You know what young, talented basketball players also like? The NBA and NBA stars. Howard can sell players on the NBA dream by giving them the blueprint from going from Michigan to the NBA where he played Also, he should have a number of contacts that could help out with former teammates.

Imagine you’re a 17-year-old recruit wondering where you’ll go to college and LeBron James gives you a call to steer you toward Michigan? If I’m in that situation, I shut down my recruitment immediately and do whatever he tells me to do.

Let’s just hope he is not taking any recruiting tips from LeBron though. The guy cannot get players to join him in LA and cannot even get guys to join him in Space Jam. What a mess.

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