Juwan Howard is coming back to Michigan.
The former member of the Fab Five has agreed to a five-year deal to coach the Wolverines, a person with direct knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the announcement had not been made.
Michigan is giving the Miami Heat assistant coach his first shot at being a head coach, other than during the NBA’s summer league. He replaces John Beilein, who left to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Howard helped Michigan reach the national championship game twice, playing alongside Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Jimmy King and Ray Jackson. The school later removed the Fab Five’s Final Four banners from Crisler Arena as part of self-imposed sanctions that stemmed from one of the NCAA’s largest financial scandals.
A federal investigation revealed now-deceased booster Ed Martin gave Webber and three non-Fab Five players more than $600,000. The NCAA forced the school to dissociate from the former players involved until 2013. The saga stained the university and basketball program, leading to many years of struggles.
“Juwan wasn’t a part of that,” Jackson told AP in a telephone interview. “He was never involved. And despite being part of the Fab Five, which is tied to Ed Martin, Juwan embodies the professionalism and positivity that Michigan represents across the world.”
Beilein became the leader Michigan needed, running the program without a hint of controversy and bringing the school back to the national title game in 2013 and 2018. The Wolverines also won two Big Ten season championships — an accomplishment the Fab Five never achieved — along with a pair of conference tournament titles while becoming the school’s all-time winningest coach.
When Beilein left, however, there did not appear to be a top candidate to take his place. Assistant Luke Yaklich, a defensive specialist, has been at Michigan for only two seasons and assistant Saddi Washington has been on the staff for just three. Butler coach LaVall Jordan, a former assistant of Beilein’s, has been a head coach for just three seasons. Providence coach Ed Cooley agreed to an extension and withdrew from consideration for the Michigan job.
Although Howard doesn’t have ties to Michigan’s recent history with Beilein, his connection to the school is significant. Howard’s hiring may bring a wave of excitement with endorsements from former teammates such as Webber and Rose along with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. His coaching experience in the NBA also makes him an attractive coach for top prospects.
Howard had been a candidate to be a head coach in the NBA, including at Cleveland coincidently.
The 46-year-old Howard, who is from Chicago, played at Michigan for three seasons before Washington drafted him No. 5 overall in 1994. The two-time NBA champion with the Heat and one-time All-Star averaged 13.4 points, 6.1 rebounds and 2.2 assists during his career that ended after the 2012-13 season.
Howard went into coaching after retiring as a player, starting as an assistant coach focused on player development with the Heat being promoted to an assistant coach with one of the franchises he played for during his 19-year career.
“Look at his resume with two Final Fours, an Elite Eight and NBA champion,” Jackson said. “He’s also a great man, who went back to get his degree after being in the NBA and that says a lot about him. He’s always been focused and determined and widely respected.”