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Erik Spoelstra gives speech to U-M team, calls Juwan Howard ‘my best mentor’

The Miami Heat head coach gave some wise words following Michigan’s win Saturday night.

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Miami Heat v Orlando Magic Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

After the Michigan Wolverines throttled the Southern Utah Thunderbirds on Saturday night at Crisler Center in Ann Arbor, a special guest visitor in Miami Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra came to the locker room and gave a speech to Juwan Howard’s team.

“(This is) a historic program you guys are playing for,” Spoelstra told the team. “I sucked, but if I was any good at your guys’ age, I’d want to be sitting right where you all are right now in this locker room playing for (Howard) and this program. He’s the best mentor in our association, he was that way as a player. He’s been my best mentor — as an assistant coach, player, he mentored me and he’s bringing that mentorship, leadership and coaching to all of you. This is what it’s all about right here. These are the times of your lives. We would do anything to be in this locker room and play that kind of game. To come off the weekend you just came off of and get to work on Monday and Tuesday, we would do anything to be in your guys’ chairs. Appreciate you allowing us to watch, loved the ways you guys competed — it’s for competitors only, right?”

After the game, Howard was asked about coaching in front of Spoesltra, and this is what he had to say about that:

“I wasn’t thinking about it, but obviously I saw him,” Howard said. “I was so locked in and engaged in the game, but it was great, the support was in the building. To take away from his time, I know he has to prep for an important game tomorrow vs. the Detroit Pistons, it just shows he’s so selfless in so many ways. So supportive, obviously, and what he’s done to help me in coaching is special.”

Howard was a part of Spoelstra’s staff from 2013-19 before taking the head coaching gig at Michigan. Spoesltra personally recruited Howard to be on his staff in Miami, and also endorsed him to be Michigan’s head coach back in 2019.

“I think he’s like a five-tool coaching talent,” Spoelstra said about Howard earlier this year to USA Today. ”He’s got leadership qualities, he has immense basketball experience from a long career playing under Hall of Fame coaches, he has a work ethic to get better at the craft of coaching and I think he has the personality that can really connect with recruiting.”

Howard has also given plenty of credit to Spoesltra in the past, stating he is “a part of the coach Spoelstra coaching tree.”

The two coaches continue to have a strong bond to this day, and it’s awesome to see Spoelstra take time out of his busy schedule — even though he had an off-day before his team takes on the Detroit Pistons Sunday afternoon at LCA — to come watch his good friend and mentor coach his alma mater and give a speech to the team after the win.

And this certainly can’t hurt with recruiting pitches, right?