New head coach Juwan Howard has Michigan Wolverines men's basketball team rolling to 7-0 start

Michigan Wolverines head coach Juwan Howard talks with guard Zavier Simpson, left, and forward Isaiah Livers during the second half against Elon on Nov. 15 in Ann Arbor. (AP file photo)


AP Basketball Writer

MIAMI — Juwan Howard breaks out the Cabbage Patch dance only for special occasions.

He did it when he finally became an NBA champion player with the Miami Heat in 2012. He did it again the next year, when the Heat won another title and he was transitioning to a coaching life. Heat players like Dwyane Wade were known for doing it at times in tribute to him.

And he did the dance — fists clenched, arms out in front of him, swinging in a circular motion, just as he did in 1992 when Michigan beat Ohio State to get to the Final Four — again last week when Michigan won the Battle 4 Atlantis.

“Isn’t that just awesome?” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said, smiling broadly.

Howard has led the Wolverines to a 7-0 start in his first season as coach at the school where he played. They’re set to crack the AP Top 25 when the new poll is released today. And what has already been a big week is about to get even bigger: the Wolverines are following up their title run in the Bahamas with a visit Tuesday to second-ranked Louisville; the Cardinals could be sitting at No. 1 by tipoff.

“So happy for this dude,” Wade tweeted after Michigan won the Bahamas title.

There’s a whole slew of new Michigan fans inside the building the Heat call home. They’ve been watching the Wolverines whenever they can, and seeing Howard celebrate was cause for Spoelstra to celebrate as well.

“I know he’s dynamic as a human being and it’s his calling to be a mentor,” Spoelstra said. “So to me, it seemed like a perfect fit.”

So far, Howard and a new staff that includes former longtime St. Joseph’s head coach Phil Martelli have made just about every right call in his return to the program where he was part of the celebrated “Fab Five” recruiting class that led Michigan to two straight national-title games a quarter-century ago.

Howard took over when John Beilein left for the NBA a season after guiding the Wolverines to the national-title game. He inherited a team that lost top scorers Charles Matthews, Jordan Poole and Ignas Brazdeikis, but hasn’t missed a beat.

“I’ve never been a guy that’s always been about me-me-me, I-I-I,” Howard said. “But I’ve also instilled that in our players, that we have to make each other better.”

The early results have been impressive.

In the Bahamas, U-M shared the ball and had dominating offensive stretches in wins against No. 6 North Carolina and No. 8 Gonzaga on consecutive days.