The Wolverine

April 2020

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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74 THE WOLVERINE APRIL 2020 T wice, Juwan Howard stopped play late in Michigan's 82-58 blow- out of Nebraska March 5, Se- nior Night in Ann Arbor, first so Jon Teske could get his due, and then Zavier Simpson. He hugged both seniors as though he'd been their coach each of their four years, show- ing his appreciation for the way they embraced him in his first season and getting emo- tional when they made their way to the bench. In the stands, flanked by his family and with ushers on both sides to limit the number of autograph seekers, John Beilein stood and offered his own tribute to his former players. Some close to it said Michigan's former coach was apprehensive about the recep- tion he'd receive given how abruptly he left last May, but he was intent on being there to support the two Ohioans he brought to U-M four years earlier. He needn't have worried. Beilein received a huge cheer when he made his way up the stairs to his seat, and later the biggest ovation of the night when shown on the Crisler Arena big screen. It was only fitting. Beilein, after all, brought the program to unprec- edented prominence with five Sweet 16s in his last seven years, and Howard has gotten off to a good start in his effort to build upon that success. Beilein stayed until the two se- niors left the floor, giving them a standing ovation before he hurried out, not wanting to steal the spot- light. Teske and Simpson acknowl- edged they were grateful their for- mer coach was there, while Howard also was pleased. "I think I found out maybe five days ahead of time, and I thought it would be great," he said. "A great idea to have Coach in the building. He's meant a lot to the program and he's meant a lot to the players. They've grown with Coach Beilein. He's developed Zavier as well as Jon, and he also recruited them. He's been a part of their success — a huge part of their success. "So it was great to see Coach Beilein in the building. I didn't get a chance to talk to him, but people that know me — my family and friends — they know that I'm an egoless kind of guy. It's not about me. It's about Zavier, it's about Jon and we know Coach Beilein has been a huge part of their success." If Howard continues the program's success as most predict, his response is Exhibit 1 as to why. He's genuine, having proven it time and again. Coaches on campus, from softball's Carol Hutchins to wrestling's Sean Bormet, recently offered stories on how approachable he was to their athletes, even to their recruits tenta- tive about reaching out at football games. He took the praise in stride, al- most embarrassed by the compli- ments when approached at a late- season press conference. "I'm gonna be me," he said with a wide grin and a shoul- der shrug. "That's all I know. I was that way when I played here. I'm not going to change now as a coach. Why? "I walk on the Diag. Passing out donuts … I enjoy that. I enjoy being part of this Block 'M.' I really admire our ath- letes, not only here at Michi- gan but all over across the world. I know it's challenging, but to see how they are being able to do something they en- joyed doing as kids growing up and play the sport they always wanted to play …" He knows how hard it can be, but he also understands how fun it is, too. He had his share of huge moments as a player, and he's enjoying watching others chase their own dreams in the sports they love. "I enjoy going to the games and supporting women's basketball," he noted. "I understand we're going to have a nice match — gymnastics is competing at Crisler. I will be there. I'm looking forward to the softball games. I love football. That's my passion right there … "I am going to try to catch a soc- cer game, as well as lacrosse. I'm learning more about lacrosse … my daughter plays lacrosse, but I still don't know too much about it." Some coaches make an appear- ance for show. The genuine ones do it because they don't know any other way than, as Beilein always preached to his team, to "do the next right thing." It was a core value then and it's clear it still is, a promising indicator that the program remains in great hands. ❏ Chris Balas has been with The Wolver- ine since 1997, working part time for five years before joining the staff full time in 2002. Contact him at cbalas@ thewolverine.com and follow him on Twitter @Balas_Wolverine. INSIDE MICHIGAN   CHRIS BALAS Passing The Torch According to many on campus, Juwan Howard is as approach- able to athletes on other teams as he is his own, such as senior point guard Zavier Simpson, who quickly created a strong bond with the coach. PHOTO BY PER KJELDSEN

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