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Shaquille O’Neal asks Juwan Howard how it feels to prove naysayers wrong

“It inspired me.”

NCAA Basketball: Michigan State at Michigan Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

There almost always seems to be a common thread between the most successful athletes and coaches.

The most successful usually find ways to motivate them at every turn.

Motivation can often be found in the form of doubt. Not the doubt from oneself, but the doubt, the shade, from others.

Michigan head coach Juwan Howard often uses the skepticism thrown his direction as fuel to help power his desire to win.

This type of mindset was highlighted during a conversation on Inside the NBA between Shaquille O’Neal and Howard on Tuesday night.

“When you first took the job there were a lot of naysayers who doubted you, how does it feel to bring the program so far in your first (full) year?”, Shaq asked Howard.

“Big fella, it feels great man. I never forget a reporter asked me as far as ‘do you hear the noise as far as what media or people that are saying you’re a first time (head) coach, you don’t know college you don’t know the game’. That right there, yeah, it inspired me but I had that drive, I had that love. I didn’t really try to perform because of what I heard. It’s just my DNA,” Howard said. “It’s how I was brought up. Coming out of Chicago, my grandmother raising me, instilling ‘hey, you gotta work for everything you try to go after, nothing is given to you.’ And that’s real sh*t. Excuse my language but it is what it is.”

When asked a similar question a few weeks back, Howard highlighted that he hears backhanded compliments. “Of course I’ve heard it,” he said. “I’m not here to make this a big issue — I’ve always been extremely competitive since I started playing sports, whether it was basketball, baseball. I didn’t play competitive football, but in our neighborhoods we played against each neighgborhood in the park in football, and it was tackle football with no equipment,” Howard said in February. “That level of mental toughness has prepared me for whatever’s been thrown in my direction. Yeah, I hear the doubters. I’m not going to sit here and act like I didn’t hear the noise before I got hired. Still to this day, I hear the backhanded compliments.”

More doubters will show themselves as No. 1 Michigan (22-4) gets set to face off against No. 4 Florida State (18-6) in the Sweet Sixteen on Sunday, but there are plenty of believers that will be rooting on Howard and the maize and blue.