Michigan will hire Fab Five member Juwan Howard as its next men’s basketball coach, several outlets reported Wednesday.
Howard, who has never been a head coach or coached at the college level in any capacity, is replacing John Beilein, who left to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers.
LeBron James and Dwayne Wade, with whom Howard won two NBA championships in Miami, were among those to immediately praise the hire.
Howard should be an instant hit with the fan base on name value alone.
He helped Michigan to two national championship game appearances (including the infamous loss to North Carolina when Chris Webber tried to call a timeout he didn’t have) and an Elite Eight run in three seasons.
Howard declared early for the NBA draft, became the fifth overall pick in the 1994 NBA draft when the Washington Bullets selected him, and had a solid 19-year professional career.
He became a Miami Heat assistant coach in 2013, the same year he retired, and has remained there since.
As the new coach of the Wolverines men’s basketball team, Howard will have to contend with some lofty expectations.
Michigan made eight of the last nine NCAA Tournaments under Beilein, including two national championship game appearances and another Elite Eight appearance. The Wolverines won the regular-season or conference tournament in four of those years.
Michigan also interviewed Providence coach Ed Cooley, who eventually signed a contract extension with the Friars. The Wolverines also reportedly considered Luke Yaklich, a Beilein assistant.
Howard becomes the latest member of a growing trend among college basketball programs to hire former NBA players who thrived in the 1990s. That group includes Patrick Ewing (Georgetown), Penny Hardaway (Memphis) and Jerry Stackhouse (Vanderbilt).
Chris Mullen (St. John’s), another member of that group, recently stepped down.
The 2019-20 season is expected to be a rebuilding year for Michigan, although point guard Zavier Simpson and center Jon Teske gives the team two clear leaders.
Ignas Brazdeikis and Jordan Poole declared for early entry into the NBA draft, while Charles Matthews exhausted his eligibility. Those three players combined for 39.8 points and 13.4 rebounds per game last season.
Still, Bovada listed Michigan at +1800 to win the 2019-20 national championship, as of Wednesday morning. That tied the Wolverines with Kansas for the eighth-best odds.
Howard fathered a child with Jenine Wardally, the runner up for Michigan’s Miss Basketball in 1990. His son, Juwan Howard Jr., won a Michigan high school state championship before playing college basketball for Western Michigan and Detroit.