Any lingering concerns about Michigan basketball coach Juwan Howard leaving Ann Arbor to pursue a head coaching position in the NBA have been dosed — for now anyway.
Approached by the Los Angeles Lakers about their high-profile vacancy, Howard declined to move forward in the process and will remain with the Wolverines for the 2022-23 season, according to a report by ESPN†
Howard’s name was first connected with Los Angeles earlier this spring when it became clear the franchise would be parting ways with head coach Frank Vogel after the Lakers missed the playoffs. Howard’s ties to general manager Rob Pelinka, with whom he played at UM in the early 1990s, and superstar LeBron James, his former teammate with the Miami Heat, made him an intriguing candidate after three successful years in Ann Arbor.
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The depth of Howard’s connections within the NBA after nearly three decades as a player and coach mean he’s likely to be courted in virtually every coaching cycle to come. Whether he could be tempted down the line is unclear.
For now, though, Howard has chosen to keep hold of what he often describes as a dream job, the role sweetened by an opportunity to coach two of his sons next season. Jace Howard, a reserve forward, is entering his third year with the program while Jett Howard, a highly rated wing who chose UM over Tennessee, is expected to be significant contributor as a freshman. Jett is the No. 38 overall prospect in the class of 2022 and could play a critical role for the Wolverines if fellow small forward Caleb Houston remains in the NBA draft.
Shortly after the initial reports linked Howard to the Lakers, his wife, Jenine, shared on Twitter a message that appeared to refute the idea of her husband’s candidacy. Jenine had grown frustrated with articles and social media messages that said Howard’s primary reason for staying at Michigan involved coaching his sons.
“I also wish they would stop making it about ‘his sons,’ Wardally wrote. “He’s excited to Coach EVERY kid here. He wants to win a championship. That’s the focus.”
Howard’s pursuit of a championship received a significant boost when star center Hunter Dickinson decided to return for his junior season. The addition of highly coveted transfer guard Jaelin Llewellyn from Princeton gives Howard a readymade replacement for DeVante’ Jones, who bypassed his final year of eligibility to pursue the NBA. The incoming recruiting class, which is headlined by Howard and four-star center Tarris Reed, is ranked eighth nationally and third in the Big Ten behind Ohio State and Illinois, according to 247Sports.
The remainder of Howard’s roster will be shaped between now and June 1, when Houston and power forward Moussa Diabate must decide whether they will return to school or turn pro. Both players declared for the NBA draft earlier this spring but chose to maintain their collegiate eligibility ahead of next month’s deadline.
Houstan declined an opportunity to attend the combine in Chicago last week, prompting rumors of a possible promise from a team near the back end of the first round or early in the second round. Diabate tested extremely well and likely improved his draft stock, though it’s unclear how highly he would need to be projected to leave Michigan for good.
Either way, Howard will be waiting in Ann Arbor should either player decide to return.
Contact Michael Cohen at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Cohen13†
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Michigan basketball coach Juwan Howard says no to LA Lakers