The Wolverine

March 2021

The Wolverine: Covering University of Michigan Football and Sports

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90 THE WOLVERINE MARCH 2021 J ohn Beilein made it a point to give Juwan How- ard his space when his replacement arrived on cam- pus in May 2020. A big part of that, of course, was that U-M's former coach (2007- 19) had his own new team to coach in the NBA's Cleve- land Cavaliers; he also knew it wouldn't be fair to his former players or to Howard to interfere where it was no longer his place. At the same time, his was never an "out of sight, out of mind" situation. He reached out to a few of his former players before being informed he couldn't, given his position — the NBA made no exceptions for prior rela- tionships. Still, he kept an eye on the Wolverines when he could. Prior to this season, before he started work as a Big Ten analyst and color commentator, he reached out to seniors Isaiah Liv- ers and Eli Brooks, two kids he'd recruited and coached, to wish them good luck heading into their final seasons. "I just told them to remember who they were, to embrace the culture they helped build," Beilein recalled. In no way, shape or form was he suggesting Howard hadn't. On the contrary, in fact. He just wanted to provide some encouragement for a group of kids who'd helped him add bricks to the incredible founda- tion he'd built in Ann Arbor. Of all the potential coaches on the list to replace him, Howard was the one who intrigued Beilein the most. "In my exchanges and commu- nication with alums, Juwan always stood out to me as a guy who re- ally honored his time at Michigan," Beilein praised. "He came back and graduated from Michigan. When we talked in the offseason, he was re- ally thirsty to learn about the game. "Here's this guy, two decades in the NBA, a coach [assistant] with the Miami Heat, and he was thirsty to talk with our staff about basket- ball. When he comes in, he comes from the Heat culture where it is about hard work, not about stardom and all-star teams." The team is the star, Beilein con- tinued, and "that fit right with the Michigan mold." It was also right in line with what Howard learned in his own experience as part of the Fab Five, a group that played for each other, and with the Heat. In hindsight, it made him the per- fect replacement for Beilein, and the timing was impeccable. But it was also fair to question it, and many did (cough, cough). There's a long list of former NBA standouts, from Chris Mullin and Patrick Ewing at their alma maters (St. John's and Georgetown, respec- tively) to Jerry Stackhouse, currently struggling at Vanderbilt, who tried but failed or have struggled coach- ing at the collegiate level. Howard still has plenty to prove, only in his second year as a head coach, but there's been more and more evidence that he understands perfectly that success is about talent and culture. The latest came after U-M's 67-59 win at Wisconsin, a stunning comeback from 14 down after a 23-day layoff due to CO- VID precautions. The game ball didn't go to leading scorer Isaiah Livers or frosh Hunter Dickinson (11 points, 15 rebounds), but to senior Chaundee Brown Jr. His one point had given him 1,000 for his career, and his defense and energy had played a huge role in the comeback. "Since his first day with us, he's been a leader and he's been consistently a leader ev- ery day in practice," Howard praised. "… He always says hello to people, always to the freshmen. I get emotional thinking about how special he is, and I'm like, 'Wow — we need more Chaundees!' "When you Google a guy that is all in, Chaundee Brown Jr.'s name and picture will pop up, so that's what today was all about — celebrating his success." He's "the guts and glue of the Maize and Blue" as the late, leg- endary voice of Michigan football Bob Ufer coined it, and a perfect complement to a group that plays for the name on the front of the jer- sey, not the back. Similar to senior point guard transfer Mike Smith, who scored 22.6 points per game at Columbia last year, Howard knew what he wanted — more impor- tantly understood what he needed — and built what's been an incredible display of unity. There will undoubtedly be bumps in the road, perhaps even this year. There's also plenty still to prove in the postseason, an area in which Howard has yet to participate. But when you're talking "guts and glue," it always starts at the top with the values of the man in charge. In that area, Michigan bas- ketball remains in good hands. ❑ Chris Balas has been with The Wolver- ine since 1997. Contact him at cbalas@ and follow him on Twitter @Balas_Wolverine. INSIDE MICHIGAN   CHRIS BALAS The Guts And Glue … Michigan head coach Juwan Howard understands perfectly that success is about talent and culture. PHOTO BY LON HORWEDEL

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