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Getting to know Juwan Howard and the new Michigan assistant coaches

Let’s get you up to speed on Michigan’s new coaching staff.

NCAA Basketball: Big Ten Media Day Quinn Harris-USA TODAY Sports

A new era of Michigan basketball is upon us, and with that comes some new faces all around, but especially on the coaching staff.

The entire coaching staff is different from this time last season, with the exceptions of assistant coach Saddi Washington and strength and conditioning coach Jon Sanderson.

I’m sure you know a lot about head coach Juwan Howard, but let’s recap everything he’s done in his career up to this point.

After being drafted with the fifth overall pick in the 1994 NBA Draft by the Washington Bullets, Howard enjoyed a career that spanned nearly two decades. His final season as a player was in 2013 as a member of the Miami Heat. After hanging up the sneakers, Howard landed an assistant coaching position with the Heat that lasted until his current position with the Wolverines. During his time with Miami as a coach, Howard helped develop All-Star center Hassan Whiteside.

“(Howard’s) a great guy,” Whiteside told the Sun Sentinel back in 2015. “He played 19 years in the league. It’s not too many who can say that. He just talks to me every day.”

Meanwhile, Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra told the Sun Sentinel, “Juwan’s brilliance is his personality. You immediately gain trust in him. Juwan is still a young coach but he’s so far advanced because of his professionalism.”

All of what Spoelstra said sure seems to line up with Howard’s early successes on the recruiting trail, especially given the fact he landed his first five-star last week. As a Michigan fan, you can only hope that all continues as Howard progresses as a head coach.

About two weeks after Howard was hired in, the university announced his assistant coaching staff — associate head coach Phil Martelli and assistant coach Howard Eisley.

Martelli is one of the older coaches in college basketball, with 43 years of experience. He was an assistant coach at Widener — his alma mater — from 1977-78. He then went on to become a high school head coach at Kennedy-Kenrick Catholic in Pennsylvania from 1978-85. After that stint, he was an assistant coach at Saint Joseph’s for a decade, before taking over the program from 1995-2019.

He won several awards in 2004, including the AP Coach of the Year and Naismith Coach of the Year. The season was a wildly successful one for Saint Joseph’s — 30-2, 16-0 Atlantic 10 Conference — advancing all the way to the Elite 8 and losing by two points to Oklahoma State. It was the closest Martelli’s come to a Final Four.

“Phil is so highly respected in the sport of basketball — on every level — it is an honor that he has decided to join us. He brings such a wealth of knowledge and creativity which I know will be beneficial as we move forward,” Howard said in a press release shortly after Martelli and Eisley were introduced.

Eisley, meanwhile, has never coached in the college ranks. Like the head coach, Eisley was also drafted in the 1994 NBA Draft — 30th overall to Minnesota in the second round. He played in until 2006. He stayed out of the league until 2010, when he became an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Clippers. He also had assistant coaching stints with the Washington Wizards (2014-16) and the New York Knicks (2016-19).

Fun fact — Eisley grew up in Detroit and was high school teammates with Jalen Rose.

“Howard and I have known each other for a long time. We have competed against each other and risen up the NBA coaching ranks together. It’s going to be great to finally be working and collaborating together,” Howard said in the press release.

With the varying levels of experience from a coaching standpoint from top to bottom, it will, at the very least, be an interesting first year of Michigan basketball under the new coaching regime.