With The Winningest Coach In Program History Gone, What Will Happen Now?
With John Beilein heading for Cleveland to join the NBA, many are left wondering what will happen with the University of Michigan’s basketball team. Of course it would be a miracle to see them advance far in this first year without Beilein. They have lost their leading scorers; Iggy Brazdeikis, Charles Matthews and Jordan Poole. Their top recruit, Jalen Wilson was supposed to help fill these roles, but decommitted with the recent staffing changes. This leaves us to wonder what the future looks like.
The Return of a Star
The Wolverine’s announced the hire of Juwan Howard, a former Michigan Fab-Five star. The contract is for 5 years and starts at $2 million annually. Howard has an impressive resume, beginning early with back to back NCAA D1 finals appearances in 1992-1993. After leaving school early to join the NBA, he became the first player to graduate on time with his class, despite his professional career. He also became the first player in the NBA to sign a $100 million contract. In his 19 seasons playing in the NBA, Howard played over 1,200 games and averaged 13.4 points and 6.2 rebounds. During this, he recorded two NBA Championships with the Miami Heat in his final two years as a player. He then went on to be the assistant coach of for Heat for the next 6 years.
Despite all of these accomplishments, there is still reason to be concerned with Howard. For starters, he has never been a head coach before. The transition could prove to be challenging for him. If that transition isn’t enough, he has never coached in the NCAA. Sure he played 25 years ago but a lot has changed since then. Not to mention that coaching and playing are completely different aspects of the game. To succeed here, look for some veteran assistants to be brought in to help Howard with the transition. Also he is coming into a team in rebuild mode. After losing three players from last year to the NBA Draft, only Teske and Simpson remain from the starting lineup. This means that some players off the bench will have to step up. Recruiting is an option, but it is late and many players have already committed.
What About the Big Ten?
Also consider the upcoming competition in the Big 10. Michigan State retains the number one player in the conference, Cassius Winston. They also have plenty of returning talent and several incoming freshmen like #38 prospect Rocket Watts. Wisconsin is looking to be the front-runner for recruiting the Hauser brothers who are transferring out of Marquette. They will have to sit a year due to the transfer, but the next year is another story. The Badgers will have some potential if they can retain some of the talent from this past year. Besides losing Ethan Happ, most of the team is Freshmen and Sophomores. Getting these guys a year of experience with the Hauser brothers will make for a dangerous team in the 2020-2021 season. Even through their struggles last year, don’t sleep on Indiana or Ohio State. They each have a top 30 recruit coming in this year, the Buckeyes bringing in 3 of the top 50.
Speaking of recruiting, the top prospect that Michigan “lost”, Jalen Wilson? Don’t lose all hope on him yet. He decommitted amongst coaching changes, before Howard accepted the coaching position. He is still open to recruiting so with some work, Howard may be able to reel him back in. There are also some other recruits that have yet to commit to a team. The #5 overall prospect, RJ Hampton, has yet to decide on a school. He has some that he is leaning towards but a major coaching change like this could potentially sway his thoughts. I wouldn’t get my hopes too high though, Kansas is still the forerunner. Who knows, maybe Howard can work some recruiting magic with his ties from the Miami Heat. He was on the team with Lebron James and Dwayne Wade when they won back to back championships. Lebron and Wade both speak highly of him and support his new role as head coach. Could we possibly see Zaire Wade and Lebron “Bronny” James Jr playing for Michigan in the near future?
From the NBA back to College?
The trend of hiring former NBA players as coaches is nothing new to the NCAA. There have been numerous coaches hired to bring their experiences and knowledge back to teach the younger generations. Most recently, 4 former NBA players have returned to coach at their Alma Mater in the past 5 years.
Chris Mullin at St. John’s
Patrick Ewing at Georgetown
Penny Hardaway at Memphis
Juwan Howard at Michigan
These have had mixed results so it is hard to discern how this strategy will pay off this early. Chris Mullin has improved the record each year at St. John’s, finishing most recently with a 21-13 record for the 2018-2019 season. He has since stepped down as head coach. Penny Hardaway finished his first season as Head Coach earlier this with a 22-14 record. Since this, he has secured the number one recruiting class in the country. On the other hand, Ewing has been adapting to his NCAA coaching transition slowly. His team is just 34-29 in the past two years. Terry Porter, although it is not his Alma Mater, is really struggling at the University of Portland. His record over three seasons is merely 28-69.
There are a lot of opinions as to what will happen with the University of Michigan Basketball team. Juwan Howard will continue the success the Beilein has had with the program. Losing top recruits and players to the draft will send Michigan into a tumble that will take years to recover from. Personally, I think it all comes down to recruiting and the conference. The Big 10 is one of the toughest, if not the toughest conference to play in. With the current talent amongst other teams, I would be surprised to see winning records in the next two years. If Howard can surround himself with experienced NCAA veterans and be successful in recruiting, then I can see a power team emerging in 3 or 4 years.
Got any Questions? Comments? Drop them below. I want to hear other takes on this.