After 12 very successful years with John Beilein running the show in Ann Arbor, it’s understandable that there would be a sense of skepticism when Michigan hired Juwan Howard as his successor. Unlike Beilein, Howard arrived in Ann Arbor with zero years head coaching experience and a lot of question marks about his ability to succeed at the college level.
Two years later, Howard stood at center court of Crisler Center holding a banner that read, “Big Ten Champions Men’s Basketball 2021.”
Not only has Howard been able to continue the success that Beilein created at Michigan, he appears to have elevated the program even further under his watch - leading the Wolverines to a No. 2 ranking in the country after beginning the season unranked. Howard has also established himself as the most successful men’s basketball coach in Michigan history through his first two years, winning more games than any of his predecessors in their first two seasons.
Thursday night was special for many reasons. It was special because it was senior night for the Wolverines, signaling the last home game for guys like Isaiah Livers, Austin Davis, Eli Brooks, and possibly Franz Wagner. It was special because, following a brutal loss to Illinois on Tuesday night, the Wolverines bounced back in a very big way by absolutely dismantling their in-state rival. It was special because the win secured the first regular season Big Ten title for Michigan since 2014. It was special because amazingly, as a member of the Fab Five, Howard never won a Big Ten title as a player. Lastly, it was special because Howard officially put to bed all of the skepticism that accompanied his hire.
Perhaps nobody was more skeptical of Juwan Howard than Mike Valenti, host of the Mike Valenti show on Detroit’s 97.1 The Ticket. Valenti, a graduate of Michigan State, went as far as to call Howard “a dud of a hire”. Valenti continued, "Hiring Juwan Howard is nothing more than a PR stunt and an admission you couldn't get a quality candidate in here.”
You can watch the full video of his comments below:
With one game remaining on the regular season schedule, Howard and the Wolverines will soon turn their focus toward the Big Ten tournament and beyond - with many still favoring Michigan to be cutting the nets at the conclusion of March Madness.