| Detroit Free Press
Michigan basketball coach Juwan Howard on New Year’s resolutions
Michigan basketball coach Juwan Howard gives his thoughts on the new year and any resolutions he has in 2021 after a win Dec. 31, 2020 vs. Maryland.
Detroit Free Press
It was a pleasant return to normalcy for Howard (who turned 48) and the Wolverines, whose two-week shutdown officially ended this weekend.
In his first public remarks on the pause, which occurred due to an outbreak of the B.1.1.7 COVID variant within the athletic department (the men’s basketball team had no positive tests before and during the shutdown), Howard commented on the difficulty of the past two weeks.
“It was a very challenging process that we all had to deal with and go through it,” Howard said Monday night the “Inside Michigan Basketball” radio show. “While we were quarantined, all we kept talking about was, ‘Let’s just win the day.’ Each and every day we went in to test, fortunately enough, we all kept testing negative. But you’ve got to keep them engaged.”
The Wolverines on Sunday began preparing for their return to competition with a 90-minute period of individual development that featured limited contact. On Monday at 3:30 p.m., the team had its first full-go practice since the shutdown began Jan. 24.
“Gradually just worked them through some conditioning, basketball conditioning,” Howard said. “Everything that we do is on the floor… so we get back to some basketball playing shape. It’s not gonna happen overnight. It’s a process, it’s gonna take time, but it’s nothing like playing five-on-five and that’s gonna be a part of our conditioning as well so you can (get) rhythm back. And that’s very important.”
When the shutdown occurred, Michigan was 13-1 and ranked first in the Big Ten. Now, the Wolverines are atop the conference standings, and they have even risen to No. 3 in the coaches and AP polls. But there’s no telling what impact the two-week layoff could have on the team’s performance.
And that’s what Howard focused on over the previous two weeks: Making sure his team would emerge from the pause with as little drop-off as possible. He began a daily routine where players, coaches and staffers sent in videos of their workout after the team could no longer work out together.
“It was beautiful to see everyone staying disciplined but more importantly (how they) are treating themselves and keeping their bodies and minds locked into the most important thing: their health,” Howard said.
Howard seemed to be even more concerned about how his players mentally processed not being able to play. He spoke about the difficulty of pausing during Michigan’s red-hot start to conference play and said he understood the frustration his players had.
At the same time, he says he did not disagree with the department’s decision.
“I’ll always remind them that you’ve got to control the controllable,” Howard said. “Right here, it’s out of our control. You’ve got to trust the process. The trust comes from Warde Manuel, our (athletic director), and our president, they have a very tough job. They always look at our health being No. 1. You can always appreciate that.
“There are times when you can question, ‘Is this the right thing to do?’ Put yourselves in their shoes. This is a tough decision to make. That decision, at the end of the day, looking back on it, that was the right decision.”
As his players worked out on their own, Howard kept busy by watching film. He said he focused on opponents Michigan has yet to play this season such as Ohio State, Rutgers, Illinois and Iowa; he also watched some NBA games and took notes and rewatched some of his team’s previous games this season.
“My mind was all over the place,” Howard said, “but at the same time, I still made sure I got a little rest in between.”
Now, Howard says, there’s “light at the end of the tunnel” for the Wolverines. Their first game after the end of the shutdown, a Feb. 11 contest against Illinois, was postponed, but the next game, a Sunday road contest at Wisconsin, remains listed on the schedule (Howard said he had “no information” about Michigan’s revised schedule going forward).
“I don’t think there’s a right answer to give you because no one ever experienced anything like this before,” Howard said. “You just try to manage it the best way you can, but making sure you don’t put our players in a situation where you get injured or set your team back. So we’ve done a really good job so far of gradually getting ourselves back to the Michigan way.
“The Michigan way is our habits, our habits of how we play offensively and defensively. So yesterday is a great start of it. We’re gonna practice again today, and looking forward to win the day and then each and every day gonna try to improve.”