INDIANAPOLIS – Third-year Michigan coach Juwan Howard succeeded in making a transition from the NBA to college in a way others before him hadn’t.
Howard guided the Wolverines to a Big Ten regular season title and Elite Eight appearance in his second season in 2020-21. Overall, Michigan went 23-5 and 14-3 in league play, with Howard finishing the season as Big Ten coach of the year.
Indiana is hoping Mike Woodson will make a similar splash in his change from a career NBA coach to his first year coaching the Hoosiers in 2021-22. During Big Ten Basketball Media Day at Gainbridge Fieldhouse, Howard offered some insight into how he adapted to the college game after spending his entire prior coaching career in the NBA as an assistant with the Miami Heat.
“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 run the building, keep the place clean and safe for us,” Howard said. “The second adjustment was the recruiting. The recruiting was a lot different. Coming from the NBA, everyone comes to you. Now you have to sell your program. You have to sell yourself, the vision, the culture. “
Howard said the phone has become his “best friend” during open recruiting contact periods.
“But I still make time for my wife,” Howard said.
Howard also said he sought advice from others who tried to make the NBA to college coaching transitions that weren’t as successful.
“I’ve learned a lot from some of the mistakes that they’ve made, and they have taught me throughout the process on how, really, if you really want to coach and really say you want to get into the college game and be a head coach, it’s more than just the X’s and O’s,” Howard said. “If you’re not willing to embrace the other stuff, then this is not the best place for you. I think you may need to find a new profession.
“I’ve always had that mindset of, ever since I was younger, was I was not going to let anyone outwork me, and I’m also all about not the fixed mindset. Because I’ve had early success, there is not room for growth. There’s always room for growth.”
Howard thinks Woodson is capable of making a successful transition to college as well. He recalled facing Woodson’s teams as an NBA player when Woodson was the head coach with the Atlanta Hawks.
“He’s always had a very competitive team that plays hard from start to finish,” Howard said. “I expect that with the Indiana University on how his team is going to play this season. A smart coach, hard worker. 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’re going to scout against his group and prepare for his team.”
Nebraska coach Fred Hoiberg said his team is “100% vaccinated” for the upcoming season. Hoiberg said he’s looking forward to the return of fans at home games this season as well.
“I’m proud of our group for buying into being 100% fully vaccinated with our group,” Hoiberg said. “But we’re still taking it cautious. Every day we’ve had players that wake up with the sniffles we keep them away, get them COVID tested. Thankfully, we have not had a positive case to this point.”
The Columbus (Ohio) Dispatch released its preseason Big Ten media poll Wednesday. Michigan was picked to repeat as Big Ten champions, with Purdue picked second and Indiana picked seventh.
IU forward Trayce Jackson-Davis was named to the All-Big Ten first team, with Illinois center Kofi Cockburn tabbed as preseason Big Ten player of the year.