Juwan Howard, a former Michigan All-American forward and member of the famed Fab Five recruiting class, agreed in principle to become the program’s new head coach Wednesday, per a source with direct knowledge of the situation.
The deal, per a source, is a five-year pact. The financial terms have not been made available at this time. Howard was officially offered the job by Michigan on Wednesday after meeting with athletic director Warde Manuel on Tuesday.
Howard, 46, has been hired to replace John Beilein — the program’s all-time winningest coach — who ended his 12-year run at the school last Monday to become the head coach of the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Howard returns to Michigan after departing in 1994 to embark on a 19-year NBA career. He was a key member of Michigan’s famed Fab Five recruiting class. The Chicago native and former All-American was the first of the group to commit, and was a key cog in what eventually resulted in back-to-back NCAA title game appearances in 1992 and 1993.
Those Final Four banners have since been removed from Crisler Center due to sanctions resulting from the Ed Martin recruiting scandal that tainted that era. Howard was not part of the group of players who were ultimately disassociated from the university for a 10-year period as a result of the scandal.
Howard ranks No. 20 on Michigan’s all-time scoring list and No. 11 on the all-time rebounding list.
As an NBA player, Howard was an All-Star in 1996 and wound up as a two-time champion with the Miami Heat (2012, 2013). During his 19 years in the league, Howard averaged 13.4 points and 6.1 rebounds in stints with the Washington Bullets, Dallas Mavericks, Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets, Charlotte Bobcats, Portland Trailblazers and the Heat.
At Michigan, Howard played in 100 games during his three-year career. As a junior in 1994, Howard averaged 20.8 points and nine rebounds per game. He declared for the NBA draft after that season and was selected No. 5 overall. Howard, per reports at the time, took correspondence courses during his rookie year to earn his Michigan degree in 1995.
In a search that became heavily impacted by the timing of Beilein’s mid-May departure, Michigan had to work diligently while battling a real time constraint due to roster and recruiting retention. Marquee coaching names who, reportedly, lacked interest in leaving their current jobs for Michigan included the likes of Billy Donovan, Brad Stevens, Mike White and Mike Brey.
Manuel told reporters in Chicago last week that he’d like to zero in on a candidate with previous head coaching experience, though he did expand his search beyond that. Ultimately, he said, he wanted to “get it right.”
Manuel moved through the first week of the coaching search mostly having interest-level discussions with coaching representatives. Providence head coach Ed Cooley, Howard and LaVall Jordan, a former Michigan assistant coach and current Butler head coach, were on an interest list. Manuel also spoke with Michigan assistant coaches Saddi Washington and Luke Yaklich about the job before moving into the external interview phase.
Moving through the weekend, Manuel — who was assisted by the search firm, Turnkey Search, during the process — put together a plan to meet with Cooley on Monday while the coach was in Ponte Vedra, Fla., for the Big East’s annual spring meetings. From there, Manuel traveled to see Howard in Miami on Tuesday. The plan, per sources, was to meet with those two coaches and then make a decision before the end of the week.
Cooley announced his decision to stay at Providence on Tuesday afternoon, netting a multi-year extension from the school. Per sources, Michigan never made a formal job offer to Cooley.
Howard has been on Miami’s bench since 2013, working under head coach Erik Spoelstra, and has been well respected in various basketball circles, netting a handful of recent head coaching interviews.
He has never been a head coach, and he’s never coached in college.
Yet he drew a great deal of internal support from alumni and former Michigan basketball players — notably teammates. Chris Webber, Jalen Rose and Jimmy King all voiced public support for Howard during the search.
Howard also received various Twitter endorsements Tuesday night, including messages from former Heat teammates LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.
“I think Juwan Howard is obviously one of the best candidates for the Michigan job. I think his pedigree speaks for itself,” King said over the weekend. “I think his experience in high school being an All-American, being an All-American in college at his alma mater, the University of Michigan, matters. And being a champion at the pro level and being a coach over the past few seasons speaks for his pedigree. I think he’s one of the best candidates the university can have.”
Webber, who returned to Ann Arbor for the first time in years last season (he was disassociated from the program for 10 years, ending in 2013, for his role in the Ed Martin recruiting scandal) also offered his support during an NBA playoff broadcast last week.
He went one step further Tuesday, speaking with the Rich Eisen show.
“He’s the first professional I ever met in my life that wasn’t a grown up, he’s been a professional since he’s been young,” Webber said. “He’s been under one of the best basketball minds ever over the last 10 years and that man’s name is Pat Riley. He’s worked with some of the best players. He’s won a championship, he’s played with the best.
“Of course I’m biased. But I’m also biased because if my son were lucky enough to get a scholarship and it was between Juwan and the (other coaching) greats I’d have him go with (Howard). Not because Juwan is my friend, but because I know the talks he’d have with my son when I wasn’t there. I know he would help him to be a man. To help him be accountable. To help him work his butt off harder than any coach would. … I know he’d love for his house to be on State Street (in Ann Arbor), to live on campus, to stay there and retire an old man. I know that’s what he wants.”
Rose, meanwhile, said during an appearance on ESPN that he’d prefer to make Howard’s candidacy a topic on-air until an offer was made.
“Let’s just make this a topic every day until that happens,” he said.
On Wednesday, it happened.