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Warde Manuel says Juwan Howard hiring isn’t a risk, urges people to let him grow

“I’m gonna gamble with people who love this place the way he does.”

Warde Manuel sat at center court of Crisler Center on Thursday afternoon and answered every question he could about the hiring of Juwan Howard as the men’s basketball coach for the University of Michigan during the introductory press conference. Perhaps the biggest storyline of all is that Howard, a former star in the program as a player, now comes to Ann Arbor with no head coaching experience.

No matter which way you slice it, that is a risk, but Manuel does not see it as such and went on the record with a bit of a long-winded response on why Howard is the right man for the job.

Here is the video:

Below are the full comments from Manuel when asked what sold him on the hire and the risk he is taking in bringing Howard into the program:

“I just had to sit and talk to him about his plan. For me, it was complete in the sense of – I told him – I asked about his offensive philosophy and his defensive philosophy. I ask Jim sometimes about that. I ask Hutch sometimes about that. Mel talks to me about it. Listen – I can’t coach, we talked about that. I don’t understand all the pick-and-rolls and the movement to the basket and all (the stuff) the guys back there learn every day on this court. What I do know is people. And what I wanted to hear is what I heard. ‘I care about them as people first, I want them to be great students and great athletes.’ He’s competitive. He wants to win because they want to win. He had a plan of what he would like his staff to look like. He’s still working through that to solidify. He talked about his family, which is also important.

“Look – we hire an individual, but people bring a family. So they have to be committed and in and want to be a part of this and supportive and those type of things. So we talked about a lot of different stuff. Most of which didn’t include the X’s and O’s on this court. I knew he knew it. I knew he had that particular piece in him, but I just wanted to hear from him, and as he said, get to know each other as men, as people. Him, talking about how he envisions his head coach responsibilities and his plan. And, for me, at the end of the day – and I half-joke about the gamble and the risk and what you all wrote – it wasn’t something I thought of. In my mind, it wasn’t a risk I’m taking. It was that I’m bringing a great person and someone who will be a great head coach on Day One here.

“He doesn’t have the experience, but let me let you check – I’m gonna give credit to Brendan – in the last two years, 110 schools have changed basketball coaches. A lot of those people who changed had great deals of experience. Let him evolve, let him develop into a head coach of his own! That’s what I’m gonna do. Support him, answer questions, put people around him and let him evolve. All these things about – ‘He hasn’t coached a game!’ and, ‘What’s Warde doing?’ and, ‘Oh, my God! He’s taking a risk and a gamble,’ and all these different things – I’m gonna gamble with people who love this place the way he does. That gets emotional when he looks at his family and talks to those kids. I’m gonna take that risk. I’m gonna take that challenge. Put it on me. Let him evolve.

“We all have a place to start. He started six years ago (with) two of the greatest minds in basketball in Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra. He’s played for some of the greatest coaches in NBA history. He played for Steve Fisher here, who’s a national championship coach. I know it’s long-winded, but I was waiting for that question – I was waiting for that question, because for me, I’ll take it. But let him evolve. Because he will, in my opinion, evolve into a great coach, a great head coach, because he’s already a great man, as you all saw.”