Right or wrong, connections will be made between the careers of Michigan head coach Juwan Howard and IU’s Mike Woodson.
The parallels are obvious, with Howard a former Wolverine player who, like Woodson, returned to lead his alma mater after a lengthy NBA playing and coaching career.
Howard was asked on Thursday at the Big Ten’s basketball media day about the adjustment going from the professional ranks to college.
“The first thing I learned when I came from NBA to the college level was getting to know everyone in the building, know the names of the managers, getting to know the folks that runs the building, keep the place clean and safe for us,” Howard said.
A question that Woodson has been asked about early and often over the last six months relates to recruiting. Howard acknowledged that was an art he has had to develop when he came to Michigan in 2019.
“The recruiting was a lot different, coming from the NBA, everyone came to you,” Howard said. “Now you have to sell your program, you have to sell yourself, the vision, the culture. The recruiting was an adjustment.”
Howard played in the NBA from 1994 to 2013, so his time in the league didn’t overlap with Woodson on the court. Howard was just arriving in Ann Arbor with his fellow Fab Five class of 1991 teammates when Woodson retired from the NBA as a player. The Indiana head coach was an NBA player from 1980 to 1991.
But Howard was both a player and an assistant coach in the league when Woodson was a head and assistant coach. Howard remembers how Woodson’s teams played at the time.
“When Coach Woodson was in Atlanta and he was coaching the Atlanta Hawks. I was playing for Charlotte at that time,” Howard said. “Coach Woodson having an amazing, talented group, played in the NBA for so many years, had success while doing it. He’s always had a very competitive team that plays hard from start to finish. I expect that with Indiana University on how his team is going to play this season.”
In total Howard was in the NBA for 25 years as a player and a coach, and Woodson, 40. More than anyone else at their level, they represent a new way of looking at what coaching attributes are a good fit for high major college basketball.
And Howard knows Indiana is going to present a new kind of challenge for him and his team this season.
“A smart coach, hard worker,” Howard said of Woodson. “What he’s learned from the NBA, not saying he’s going to do everything he did over his years coaching in the NBA, but it shows the guy knows basketball, I know his team is going to be competing from start to finish. He’s going to be another coach, along with the other coaches in the Big Ten, that keep me up at night trying to see how we going to scout against his group and prepare for his team.”
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