There were those who had their doubts when former Fab Five member Juwan Howard replaced the legendary John Beilein as Michigan Wolverines head coach. After all, he’d had no previous coaching experience.
What’s followed has been nothing short of extraordinary.
In only his second year on the job, he’s earned Big Ten Coach of the Year honors, and is one of four finalists for the Naismith men’s college coach of the year. He’s also the winningest coach in school history through the first two seasons with 39, passing the 37 wins previously set by Steve Fisher.
The Wolverines are set to play for a trip to the Elite Eight this Sunday when they take on the Florida Seminoles in the Sweet 16, and it will have a personal element for Howard.
He’ll be going up against a good friend in Seminoles head coach Leonard Hamilton, whom he played under when he played for the Washington Wizards.
“Well, our relationship runs deep,” Howard said. “… The respect that I have for a coach as a man as a father and also as a coach, obviously, during his time coaching University of Miami as well as Florida State.
“He’s had amazing success, great knowledge for the game of basketball, people and his resume speaks for himself. Our conversations were very good. I learned a lot. I will continue to use Coach Hamilton as a mentor, a father figure, an example of what great successful coaches look like on this collegiate level.”
The Wolverines will be facing the tallest team in the country, as the Seminoles have an average height of 79.6 inches (6’6). But for Howard, it’s simply about playing the game.
“Well we’ve faced a lot of different teams throughout the year, whether it’s in non-conference play or in Big Ten play and then leading up to postseason play,” Howard said. “So all teams are different in a lot of ways but somewhat similar … their length averages, what, 6 foot 8? Their wingspan is pretty long. Still gotta play the game Go out there and compete, and that’s what we’re looking forward to the competition. We look forward to playing on Sunday.”
The Wolverines and Seminoles will tip-off Sunday at 5:00 PM EST.
– – Quotes via Orion Sang of The Detroit Free Press Link – –