Will Juwan Howard’s Departure Lead to More Changes at Michigan?

It's been a contentious and disappointing season for the team

Juwan Howard
Juwan Howard's time coaching Michigan has reached its end.
Luke Hales/Getty Images

Taken in a vacuum, the news that Michigan had fired head basketball coach Juwan Howard on Friday wasn’t much of a surprise. The University of Michigan went 8-24 this season, the basketball team’s worst record in over half a century. Their conference record — 3-17 — was even more alarming. Even when you factor in Howard’s status as a high-profile Michigan alumnus and his record over the previous four seasons — all of which were over .500 — it isn’t hard to see why the university made the decision that they did.

The team’s record this season may not have been the only factor at play here, however — and it now begs the question of whether Michigan will look to make more changes in its basketball program. This week, The Athletic’s Brendan Quinn and Katie Strang wrote a detailed account of flaws seemingly running throughout Michigan basketball — including a locker-room conflicts between Howard and the team’s strength and conditioning coach Jon Sanderson.

An incident in 2022 when Howard struck Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft now looks like an early warning that all might not be well in Michigan. Sports is full of temperamental coaches, and Howard is far from the first to lose his temper in public. (Not that that makes it okay to do so.) But there are isolated moments and there are patterns of behavior — and the clash with Krabbenhoft doesn’t look like an isolated incident.

The Athletic’s reporting includes allegations that Howard bullied some of the team’s staff, as well as his son Jett. Some of those allegations came from a letter penned by Sanderson’s attorney Steven Stapleton, who described “a culture of fear” within the basketball program.

Despite Juwan Howard Incident, Tom Izzo Wants NCAA to Keep Handshake Line
Howard was suspended for the rest of Michigan’s regular season after a postgame altercation at Wisconsin on Sunday

As The Athletic reported, Michigan recently brought in an outside firm, Rankin Climate, to evaluate the basketball program and its culture.

“I know how much it meant, to not only Juwan, but to all of us for him to return here to lead this program,” said Warde Manuel, Michigan’s Director of Athletics, in a statement. “Despite his love of his alma mater and the positive experience that our student-athletes had under his leadership, it was clear to me that the program was not living up to our expectations and not trending in the right direction.” Whether that will be enough to improve the team’s fortunes for next season — or if the program’s issues run deeper — is a question with big implications for a storied basketball program.

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