During Juwan Howard’s first two seasons as the Michigan men’s basketball head coach, few have enjoyed the Wolverines’ success as much as Jalen Rose.
Rose, who currently works for ESPN as an NBA Countdown analyst, has kept tabs on his alma mater since his Fab Five days. But with his former college teammate now coaching Michigan, the connection has become even more personal. Rose appeared at Crisler Center for a handful of Michigan games during Howard’s first season as coach — along with Ray Jackson and Jimmy King — and attended the Wolverines’ road win at Rutgers.
Every time Rose gazes up at the Crisler rafters, he has the same thought. But with Howard at the helm of the program, his perspective has changed.
“Wait a minute, Michigan still ain’t retired none of our numbers? Then I thought about something,” Rose said Monday on ESPN’s KJZ show. “I’d rather have Juwan leading the program than anything else. That, to me, is the biggest validation of what the Fab Five was able to establish at the University of Michigan.”
The Juwan Howard era comes on the heels of John Beilein’s 12-year tenure, which saw the Wolverines evolve from a middling Big Ten program to a national contender. During that span, Rose began working as a media member at the McDonald’s All-American game — an annual competition among the nation’s top high school recruits.
Each year, none of the players were bound for Ann Arbor. As a member of arguably the best recruiting class in college basketball history, that surprised Rose. Before Howard’s arrival, the Wolverines hadn’t secured a McDonald’s All-American since 2002.
Now, there are three heading to Michigan to play for Howard next season.
“What Juwan is doing is next level,” Rose said. “He has the player experience and he has the coaching experience. So now when he comes into your locker room, when he comes into your living room, it sounds different to the player. It sounds different to the family.”
That same experience is what made Howard an instrumental part of the Miami Heat coaching staff from 2013-19. He helped big men like Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo develop into NBA stars, while also immersing himself in the organization’s “Heat Culture” — a staple of the franchise that emphasizes work ethic and selflessness.
Before accepting the Michigan job in 2019, Howard emerged as a candidate for NBA head coaching vacancies with the Minnesota Timberwolves and Los Angeles Lakers. That buzz didn’t fade after his first season in Ann Arbor, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported there was interest in Howard within NBA coaching circles once again. Howard called the interest flattering, but ultimately clarified he had no intentions of leaving Ann Arbor anytime soon.
When asked if Howard would consider a return to NBA coaching, Rose smiled.
“They’re going to have to get that checkbook out,” Rose said. “You know how this works. He interviewed for the Lakers job in the league before he took the Michigan job, which means they’re going to be looking and listening. And the person that knighted him is Erik Spoelstra, Pat Riley. And being a part of that culture, when you can get on the phone and talk about playing with LeBron James and Dwyane Wade and all the amazing things he’s accomplished as a player, he’s going to have a duality as a coach when NBA teams are constantly going to call for him.
“But I believe, right now, his heart is at Michigan. … I know for a fact that he would not leave without winning a national championship.”