Juwan Howard spoke on Wednesday at his first Big Ten basketball media day as the head coach for the University of Michigan and wanted to put to rest any questions about the shadow that John Beilein may be casting over his program as he enters his inaugural season.
Howard and Beilein, who left after the 2018-19 season to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers, have a relationship that dates back to Howard’s coaching days with the Miami Heat, but he wants to make it clear that the program in Ann Arbor is his now and he is not trying to copy anyone.
“I’ve always had a lot of respect for Coach Beilein and his philosophy,” Howard said. “There were times I would ask (Miami Heat head coach) Erik Spoelstra to reach out to Coach Beilein because I would say, hey, this guy is interesting. He’s one of the best basketball minds out there.”
“Now, I’m sure a lot of people think, you have a lot of pressure on you to try to fill those shoes. All I can say is this: I’m not going to try to be like Coach Beilein,” Howard said. “He has his philosophy, his way of doing things. I have my philosophy, and I feel that works for our team moving forward. But I do respect the gentleman who was there before me.”
What would those conversations sound like when Howard and Beilein would share ideas over the telephone during the summer. In fact, one of Michigan’s most improved areas in recent seasons may be attributed to feedback from Howard’s phone call.
“He would pick my brain on defense, on post defense,” Howard said. “There were times when we would have a session, I call it a career workshop day, where he would have his staff, coaching staff out there, and we all would talk about basketball and developing and skill development from an offensive standpoint.”
Howard, a former Wolverine star and one of the members of the famed Fab Five, had a long NBA career, but at one point it started to become time to think about what was going to be the next career move. It was during his time with the Portland Trail Blazers in 2009-10 to where the coaching bug made its way into his brain.
“As a player under (Portland Trailblazers head coach) Nate McMillan, that was the time when I had conversations with Nate and Monty Williams, asking them questions about what it takes to be a coach, what it’s like coaching in the NBA,” Howard said. “I started to put my brain around, before I was more interested in like the front office, but that bug, that coaching bug, that teaching bug became like what I wanted to do for my next walk.”
It was from there that Howard joined the Heat for the final three seasons of his NBA career with Spoelstra and then transitioned into becoming an assistant from 2013-18.
“Those guys were teaching me how to prepare myself as a head coach,” Howard said. “As I was an assistant with the Heat, those were the moments where I was preparing myself, like you know what, this is me, I’m embracing this opportunity. I started preparing myself as a head coach.
“Erik Spoelstra started teaching me how and what to look for, how to prepare for it as a coach, how to prepare the game planning for opponents. All that information and data I started collecting, and that was helping me prepare for this day moving forward.”
Here is Howard’s entire media session from Wednesday morning in Rosemont, Illinois.
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