The Michigan Wolverines currently sit at 7-13 overall and 2-7 in the Big Ten, which places them last in the conference standings. Dating back to 2021 when the Wolverines lost in the Elite 8 to UCLA, they are 44-43 overall. After making the Sweet 16 in 2022, Michigan missed the tournament last year and is on pace to not even make the NIT this season.
All of these alarming statistics have made Michigan athletic director, Warde Manuel, concerned about the team. However, his concern levels aren’t to the point where head coach Juwan Howard’s job is in jeopardy.
“Here’s what I’ll tell you — I have not spent one moment thinking about anything but supporting Juwan and this team,” Manuel said at Sherrone Moore’s introductory press conference over the weekend. “I haven’t thought about the evaluation of the season, all that stuff comes at the end of the season, guys. It’s rare, I’ve done it in my career, but it’s extremely rare for me to make a decision in the middle of the season.”
One of the main reasons Manuel cited as not jumping the gun is Howard underwent open-heart surgery in mid-September and stayed in the hospital for 15 days after the fact. After he was discharged, he went through weeks of rehab before he rejoined the team in an advisor role. It then took him three months to resume his regular role as head coach.
“I think that’s the key with all of our programs,” Manuel said. “Juwan is working with the staff, with the team to win, but let’s not discount what personally Juwan has been through. That is also a concern and focus of mine that he is okay and that he’s getting through this.”
Manuel told reporters he has only made an impulsive decision on firing a coach once, when he fired Paul Pasqualoni as UConn’s head football coach in late Sept. 2013 after the Huskies opened that year 0-4. Manuel does not like to do that and prefers making personnel decisions in the offseason.
“Something’s really gotta be off,” Manuel said. “I’ve not thought about it, I haven’t talked to him about it, we haven’t had that conversation. All that happens and will happen at the end of the season.”
Manuel understands people’s frustration. He even mentioned he has been frustrated, too. That said, he doesn’t see a lack of energy or want from the players.
“(Howard) doesn’t like it, the staff doesn’t like it, the student athletes don’t like where we are right now. But I have not seen a lack of effort on the team,” Manuel said. “We can play better defense at times, we can turn over the ball less, we can do things that would help us win. But I’m watching, I’m talking to Juwan. I know he’s working, and the student athletes and coaches are working on it as well.”
Michigan needs to turn things around quick to change fans’ minds about the team's current status. Nonetheless, Manuel has no plans of letting Howard go during the season.