We've seen locker room celebrations before. Hell, we saw it with John Beilein pretty often. Using water bottles to throw water on each other after a big win wasn't unique to Michigan, but we saw it quite a bit with Beilein and his guys. Of course what was unique to Michigan was Beilein's new-and-improved approach after his No. 7-seeded Wolverines stunned No. 2 Louisville in the 2017 NCAA tournament. There was something so fun and entertaining about Beilein sneaking into the locker room only to blast his players with a Super Soaker as they all waited for him with measly water bottles. A Beilein bobblehead armed with a water gun was even created after the viral event.
But it just has a different feel under Juwan Howard. For some reason, it feels even more organic and stronger. I'm not taking anything away from Beilein. I loved watching his teams play and win and I loved how down to Earth and real he always seemed to be. But Howard's team this year is as close as any as I've ever observed in college basketball.
We see it week after week when players speak to the media. We see it game after game when the bench is going absolutely bananas after every big play. And we hear the word "culture" mentioned by Juwan Howard just about every time he's behind a microphone. It's very real.
After Michigan's massive 5-point, road win over Ohio State yesterday, Chaundee Brown Jr. took to social media and captured some of the moments in the locker room. I'm not sure they were even supposed to be seen by the public, but I'm glad they're out there for us all to see.
You see Juwan in there. You see starters. You see bench players. You see true freshmen. You see walk-ons. You see everyone. All smiling, celebrating and being genuinely happy for everyone involved.
The culture at Michigan is very real and only getting better. We recently saw Howard run out onto the court to help up one of his players who hit the deck. I'm not sure coaches are really supposed to do that, but that's what Howard is all about. Pushing the limits, but in a way that only results in positive outcomes, standing up for his "sons" as he often calls them and earning the respect of every single person in the program.
John Beilein is going to go down as one of the greatest coaches in the history of Michigan basketball and he's certainly responsible for building a special program and culture. Amazingly, in two of the weirdest seasons in the history of the sport, Juwan Howard has made it even better.