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Juwan Howard doesn’t say much on incident with Jon Sanderson following first game back as head coach

Howard, however, is grateful to be healthy again to be able to be the head coach.

NCAA Basketball: Eastern Michigan at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

After serving as an assistant coach since the Battle 4 Atlantis the week of Thanksgiving, Juwan Howard returned as head coach of the Michigan Wolverines men’s basketball team on Saturday, leading them to an 83-66 win over Eastern Michigan.

Howard has been recovering from heart surgery. He addressed the team after the game and thanked Dr. Patel, the head of the team that helped with his surgery, saying in part, “This man right here is the reason why I’m standing here today.”

Howard also addressed the media for the first time this season after the win, taking time to show his gratitude.

“It’s truly a blessing,” Howard said. “I have to thank God first, also giving a big, big shout-out to University of Michigan Medical, my doctors, Dr. Patel and his crew, the nurses … there have been so many beautiful nurses that have worked with me during my recovery. I’d also like to thank my wife (Jenine)...that’s the best nurse I have. And I didn’t know that she went to medical school, but she was with me from the first day, all day. Having my wife with me — such a beautiful moment having her support.”

“Also, I’d like to thank my players for the support, the text messages as well as the phone calls and cards. I have to give a big shout out to the coaching staff — coach Phil Martelli for doing a really good job while I was away,” Howard continued. “Saddi Washington, Howard Eisley, Jay Smith, Jaaron Simmons. There are many, many managers. There are so many support staff members that have been here having my back, helping while I’ve been gone, and I trust everyone that while I was away, it felt like I was never gone.”

Howard also briefly addressed the ongoing situation with Jon Sanderson. The strength and conditioning coach filed an HR claim following an altercation before the team left for the Iowa game. A source confirmed to Maize n Brew that Sanderson chose not to make the trip to watch the Wolverines beat the Hawkeyes.

In a statement released Friday night, Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel announced Howard would be returning to the sideline for the EMU game. He said that after the internal investigation that, “Nothing was found to warrant disciplinary action for anyone involved.”

Howard didn’t have much to say when asked about the incident.

“I would basically piggyback on what Warde said,” Howard said. “Refer to his statement. I think it was clear. It was precise. And there’s still a review happening at this moment.”

When asked about Sanderson’s status with the program, the head coach didn’t really give a clear answer.

“I’m not sure,” Howard said. “I would definitely say to you, go back to that statement that Warde made and that will of course answer any question that you have.”

After the win over EMU, the Wolverines improved to 6-5. They have one more game before Christmas, as they head to Charlotte, North Carolina to take on the 7-3 Florida Gators at the Jumpman Invitational. That game is set to tip-off Tuesday, Dec. 19, at 7 p.m. EST on ESPN.