Juwan Howard made an emotional return to his alma mater as he was formally introduced as the next head coach of Michigan basketball on Thursday.
Howard, who was hired to replace John Beilein after Beilein left to become the next coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers, was overcome with emotion as he stepped to the podium after being introduced by director of athletics Warde Manuel. Before he even began to speak, he turned around, his back to the podium, to gather himself as tears streamed down his face.
When he did address the media, Howard said that he woke up to “twenty something texts” on the morning that Beilein announced he was moving on to the NBA. Howard was preparing to interview for the then-vacant head coaching job with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but said all he could think about was the possibility of coaching his alma mater. The Timberwolves offered Howard the position of associate head coach, but Howard turned it down, saying his heart was “with Michigan.”
“I’ve always been asked by friends, and even by family, would I ever coach college basketball,” Howard said. “My answer has always been, there’s only one job, there’s only one school that I would look back and pursue on the collegiate level. And that’s the University of Michigan.”
Howard also said he never thought coaching was something he’d enjoy, but during his tenure in the NBA, he “grew to embrace teaching.”
“My 17th year in the NBA, I started to get the itch,” Howard said. “You know what, coaching is my calling.”
Howard inherits a Michigan program that’s won 30 or more games the last two seasons under Beilein, though three of its key members, Charles Matthews, Ignas Brazdeikis and Jordan Poole all declared for the NBA Draft. Challenges are ahead, but it was quite the moment to see Howard back at the school where the Fab Five changed college hoops forever.