Juwan Howard and the Revival of Michigan Basketball

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First year Head Coach Juwan Howard has Michigan at No. 4

 Juwan Howard is the new head coach of the Michigan Men’s Basketball team. For those that don’t remember, or just don’t know, Juwan Howard is best known for his years as a member of the “Fab Five” coached by Steve Fisher 25 years ago.

Yes, it’s been twenty five years since Juwan Howard, Jalen Rose, Chris Weber, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson were the best starting five freshman ever assembled. Hence they were hailed as the Fabulous Five Freshman, and will be forever be remembered as the Fab Five that reshaped and reformed college basketball. There were high expectations for his talented team, as it was only three years removed from the Glen Rice team that had won the NCAA basketball championship.

Howard and the Fab Five had chemistry. They were good, they were gaudy, and they were sometimes garish. Unfortunately some also saw them as goats, because they did not win a national championship.

However, “Howard and the Fab Five 1992 Michigan basketball freshmen changed the landscape of culture of basketball across all levels.”  For instance, “when the five freshman showed up in Ann Arbor in the fall of 1991, the style began to change. Jalen Rose instituted the move to long shorts. While Michael Jordan had begun the move to long shorts, Jordan’s were still above his knees. The Fab Five wanted the long shorts like Jordan, but only longer. Coach Fisher relented. The players would add black socks to complete the look.” https://historyrat.wordpress.com/2012/04/07/juwan-howard-and-the-fab-five-the-templates-for-modern-athletes/  

I like Juwan. I do. And I’ve always liked him. He’s always had poise and composure and a peace and a calm that you don’t find in every basketball player, much less every person. And certainly part of his stamina stems from his story. Juwan is from the South Side of Chicago, and was raised by his grandmother. “The day he signed his letter of intent, his grandmother passed away. Coaches Steve Fisher and Brian Dutcher became his new family. For Fisher and Dutcher, Howard became the lynchpin to help get other recruits. He helped recruit Jimmy King and then Howard lent his talents to help recruit Ray Jackson.”

“When he played, he never envisioned that he’d get his opportunity to come back as a head coach, 25 years after his departure after the 1994 season. But that’s precisely what happened, with Howard’s hire being announced in May, despite him never having been a head coach at any level before this.

And, when introduced as the mew head coach at Michigan, it was almost too much for Howard to handle.

The tears started flowing well before he took the stage to give his opening remarks and answer questions, as Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel introduced his family, sitting next to him in the front row. By the time Howard made his way to the podium to receive a maize Wolverines jersey as the 17th head coach in program history, he was thoroughly wiping tears away from his eyes.”

AP MICHIGAN HOWARD BASKETBALL S BKC USA MI
Juwan Howard overcomes with tears of joys as he is introduced as Michigan’s new men’s basketball coach, Thursday, May 30, 2019 in Ann Arbor, Mich. The former member of the Fab Five has a five-year contract that will pay him $2 million in his first year. The former Miami Heat assistant coach replaces John Beilein, who left to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio) ORG XMIT: otkco102

If there was ever a coach I’m rooting for, it’s Juwan Howard. Jalen Rose, who recommended Howard for the job, said that during their college days, Juwan was always the adult in the room. High praise.

And tonight previously unranked and now No. 4 Michigan plays No. 1 Louisville.  It’s sounds like a mid-March madness game and it’s just December.

Go Blue!

 

Why I’m Glad Kentucky Lost  

Kansas State Bruce Webber
Kansas State Coach Bruce Weber and Xavier Sneed

Kansas State just beat Kentucky 61-58 in the 2018 Sweet 16 in Atlanta. And I’m glad.  All week, Kansas State basketball players heard about how they had no chance against mighty Kentucky. College basketball experts said John Calipari’s team was bigger and better than Bruce Weber’s. They said Kentucky steam-rolled through its first two NCAA Tournament games and had an easy path to the Final Four playing in the friendly confines of Philips Arena while K-State got here on luck as much as it did on talent.

 Of all the teams that made it to the Sweet 16, K-State had by far the least respect. So I’m so happy for Kansas State, but not for the reason you think.

I should be glad for a positive and not a negative reason, right? I mean, I should be glad Kansas State won and defeated Kentucky for the first time EVER. But I’m not, at least not really.

I don’t like Kentucky.  I don’t. I don’t like what they represent or what they stand for. Coach John Calipari relishes the fact that he runs a “one and done program”. This year, he started five freshman who will all leave college after only one year.

Blue chip freshman, a.k.a. the best high school players in the Country, fight for the right to play for and wear Kentucky Blue. Why? Because they can and are encouraged to play one year for Coach Cal and then jump to the pros. It’s a known fact and a proven way for some, I said some, to go to the pros and cash in. And the list is long. Nearly 30 former Kentucky players line NBA rosters, with a few teams carrying several Wildcats. And many if not most of them are one and dones, including Karl Anthony-Towns and Anthony Davis and Nerlens Noel and DeMarcus Cousins, just to name a few.

 And if that isn’t enough, Kentucky men’s basketball coach John Calipari announced on Wednesday that every member of his basketball team that is eligible — including the walk-ons — will declare for this year’s NBA Draft.

The announcement sounds shocking, even by the much-maligned Kentucky coach’s standards. And here’s my point: while this system may work for Calipari and the players that are successful in the NBA, is this what college basketball is all about? The Kentucky “system” is certainly not the model or the formula for success for your base and basic college basketball program. Period. 

Kansas State may not have one player who will go on to play in the NBA, much less be successful at the professional level. And that’s fine. March Madness, especially this year, is meant to pit the haves against the have nots. This year above any other year in recent memory, the teams with future NBA talent are destined and doomed to fall to the UMBC’s and the Loyola-Chicago’s and the Kansas-States of the world who have their one shining moment in the NCAA Tournament. And I’m glad.

So, let’s end on a positive note. I’m glad that Kansas State, a Nine Seed and understated underdog, defeated a heavily favored No. 5 Seed in Kentucky, with all of that potential NBA talent and all of those NBA factory prodigies. They won a barn burner of a game that went down to the wire. They won with grit and pluck and spunk and coaching. Good for them. I’m glad. In my humble opinion, this Kentucky team was full of egos and hubris and dare I say prima donnas. They felt that they should win just because. 

And so maybe, just maybe, this Kentucky loss will send a signal that staying in school for more than one year is preferable to going for only one year. In other words, what is the real reason you go to college? In sum, the Kentucky system of being an NBA factory is not the preferred solution for college basketball.