Monday, June 27, 2022

Michigan’s Juwan Howard declines interest from Lakers as serious candidate for coaching job, per report

Michigan coach Juwan Howard has declined interest from the Los Angeles Lakers to be considered as part of their ongoing search for a new coach, according to ESPN. Howard will instead remain with the Wolverines as scheduled for the upcoming 2022-23 college basketball season.

Though Howard did not express interest in the Lakers job, ESPN reports that “his candidacy would’ve moved quickly” to a formal offer from one of the NBA‘s most iconic franchises had he been open to coaching in the league next season.

Howard plans to remain in Ann Arbor, Michigan, where he will coach his sons next season. Jace will be a junior at Michigan, while younger son Jett will be a freshman.

There are several strong connections to the current Lakers franchise for Howard, which likely made him an intriguing candidate both for the front office and key members of the roster. Former college teammate Rob Pelinka is the Lakers general manger, and LeBron James was a teammate of Howard’s while he was a player and later an assistant coach with the Miami Heat.

Prior to taking the Michigan job in 2019, Howard interviewed to become the Lakers coach after six seasons on the Heat bench.

But even with all that familiarity, Howard has reportedly put an end to the possibility of moving onto the Lakers before it ever materialized into serious discussions.  

Howard has a 61-32 record in three seasons as a coach, guiding Michigan to the Sweet 16 in each of the last two years and getting to the Elite Eight in 2021 after winning the Big Ten championship. But while this past season ended in the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament, it did present some unique challenges for Howard. 

Preseason top 10 expectations were lost early in the campaign, and life on the NCAA Tournament bubble got even trickier when Howard was suspended five games for striking a Wisconsin assistant coach. Howard returned for the postseason, and Michigan — as a No. 11 seed — was able to knock off No. 6 seed Colorado State and No. 3 seed Tennessee on its way to the Sweet 16 where the Wolverines fell to eventual South Region champion Villanova. 

Howard started having his name linked to NBA job openings after the 2020 season, his first as a coach, and has remained a coach of interest in each of the two offseasons since with the Boston Celtics inquiring as to his availability last year.

Any time Howard is asked about the NBA, he has been adamant that he has no interest in professional basketball right now, reiterating his commitment to his current role at Michigan. As long as he’s still in college and Michigan is regularly making the NCAA Tournament, these NBA overtures will likely continue. 

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