Michigan Wolverines men’s basketball head coach Juwan Howard spoke to the media on Friday afternoon in Ann Arbor to preview Saturday’s showdown with Michigan State, but that was not the biggest topic of conversation. Howard was asked to shed light on the release of the police report that led to the suspension of point guard Zavier Simpson last week due to a traffic-related incident.
“I don’t recall the date of when I was made aware of it,” Howard told the media on Friday.” “Because, you know, I can’t keep up with tomorrow. And yesterday we had practice and I still don’t know what day is, but I know it’s my birthday on February 7. But overall, when I heard about the crash, he hit a pole. And then I just like, was worried about his safety...his health. When you hear things like that, the first thing (is) my heart goes to the person who’s involved in it and what is their state? And praying to God that they have not hurt themselves.”
The police report said that Simpson hit a pole in Ann Arbor just after 3 a.m. ET on Jan. 26. He was driving a vehicle that belonged to the family of athletic director Warde Manuel and police did not issue a breathalyzer at the scene, nor did they suspect the use of any drugs or alcohol. He had originally lied about what his name was to authorities, but then confessed to who he was. Howard spoke about the team rule that Simpson broke to lead ot his suspension.
“Well, he violated our curfew,” Howard said. “And that right there was something he’s aware of, as well as all his other teammates. Being out that time of the evening is not acceptable. And we all have those type of rules that we have to abide by. That was something I was not happy with at all whatsoever. So I felt that it was important that no matter who you are if you are my best player or my 15th player that there are rules that you have to respect.”
A reporter asked about the optics of the situation in crashing a car that belonged to the Manuel family, but Howard believes that is something personal between the driver and the person the vehicle belongs to.
“Actually, that’s personal,” Howard said. “That’s not something that I think is where it’s important for me to say whose car he should drive. That’s more where Zavier, as well as the person car he’s driving, that’s a personal matter between those two individuals.”
Howard says that they consider the matter closed and that the reason he stated that the suspension could go on longer than one game was that he was waiting to see the details of the police report, which became available to Michigan last Friday.
“I wanted to find out what the police report stated once it was out,” he said. “At the time, when it didn’t come out quick enough. I was comfortable with the one-game suspension. And I still live by that and I felt that he understood that he made a mistake and it’s time to move on.”
Howard says that he and Simpson have an understanding and they have closed this chapter of their relationship.
“We had some really good conversations (with) just the two of us and we looked each other in the eye and both understand, you know, he understands where I’m coming from, and he understands the rules that are in place, and I support him and we move on,” Howard said.
Ann Arbor court records say that Simpson’s case is still pending and that he has been charged with a Violation of Basic Speed offense, which carries a $130 fine that was issued on Feb. 6 and partially paid on Feb. 7. The full balance reads as due by Feb. 21.
This was not Simpson’s first traffic-related incident with Ann Arbor police. Simpson was pulled over by authorities on Sept. 16, 2019 after cutting through private property to avoid a traffic light, according to court records. A monetary transaction was made to the court on Sept. 26, 2019 to close out the case.
Michigan hosts Michigan State on Saturday at noon at Crisler Center.