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Column: Extending Juwan Howard keeps Michigan in title contention for a long time

The rumors of his departure to the NBA can finally be put to rest.

Florida State v Michigan Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

There has not been much to be annoyed about during Juwan Howard’s young tenure as head coach of the Michigan men’s basketball team, but the constant rumors that he is leaving for an NBA job have been hard for Michigan fans to stomach.

National basketball analysts and media pundits love to bring up Howard’s name whenever an NBA head coaching job opens up, but with the contract extension he signed earlier this week, the Wolverine fateful can sit back and relax knowing that Howard isn’t going anywhere for at least a few years.

The coach boasting a 44-18 record said he will be in Ann Arbor for a long time back in March. Plus, his Michigan teammate and longtime friend Jalen Rose said on the Rich Eisen show this summer that Michigan fans can expect Howard to stay at the university for a long time:

“I know his heart is in Ann Arbor,” Rose said. “I know that he wants to bring a national championship back to the school. We do have the No. 1 recruiting class coming in next year. I know he’s excited, he and his staff, about coaching (them).”

With the five-year contract extension announced, Howard gets the rightful pay increase he deserves and the stability to know that he can stay through the 2025-26 season if he likes.

At first glance, 2025-26 seemed like a random year to be the last year of the deal, until you realize that that would be Jett Howard’s senior season if he stays all four years with the Wolverines.

That is a big reason national talking heads have looked silly every time they predict that Howard will leave for the NBA sooner rather than later: what coach, especially one that has already made more than $100 million after a long NBA career, would miss out on the opportunity to coach their kids at their alma mater?

His kids playing at the school isn’t the only reason Howard isn’t going anywhere, as he is also working to turn the Wolverines into one of the best teams in college basketball.

In his very first full year as a head coach, Howard guided the Wolverines to a 23-5 record and a 14-3 Big Ten mark, leading the squad to a Big Ten title and an Elite Eight appearance.

Howard rightfully earned AP Coach of the Year honors for that season, and that year might be just the start of Michigan’s time as a basketball powerhouse with Howard at the helm.

After that successful season, Howard brought in the best Big Ten recruiting class and the No. 3 class in the country according to 247sports. That class includes three McDonald’s All-Americans, marking the first time the Wolverines have had multiple McDonald’s All-Americans in the same recruiting class since 1995.

It appears that this star-studded class isn’t a fluke either, as Howard brought in the No. 1 Big Ten class and the 14th-best class according to national rankings in 2020, and the 2022 class is shaping up to be a top one as well.

It’s not like the cupboards were bare for Howard when he got to Ann Arbor, as John Beilein helped bring Michigan to national relevance and led the Wolverines to a few national championship game appearances.

As great as a coach as Beilein was, he was never the best recruiter. That’s the biggest difference between the two coaches; while Beilein brought in good-not-great recruits who he developed into NBA prospects, Howard is bringing in guys who already have the attention of NBA scouts before they play a minute in the Crisler Center.

In a short three-year span, Howard has made Michigan a destination that top-ranked recruits want to go to, as they know they have a chance to win a Big Ten title, compete for a national title, and showcase their talents to NBA scouts.

Don’t get me wrong: Howard played and coached with the Miami Heat for a long time, and if Erik Spoelstra leaves in the next few years, Michigan fans shouldn’t be shocked if he makes the move back to the pros.

But with the pay increase, the chance to coach his kids, and the opportunity to turn his alma mater back into the dominant program it was during his Fab Five days, it’s a no-brainer as to why Howard would want to stay in Ann Arbor.

The bottom line is under Howard, the Wolverines have a chance to transform themselves into a blue blood of college basketball and make Ann Arbor a destination that the best 18-year-olds hoopers in the world would dream of going to.

So breath easy, Michigan fans: Howard is here to stay, meaning the Wolverines will be one of the best teams in the Big Ten and will be in the national title conversation for a very long time.