On Wednesday evening, the University of Michigan released a statement that officially named Juwan Howard the 17th men’s basketball coach in program history.
Because he has never coached college basketball, Howard will look to surround himself with a staff that has succeeded at the college level. If Howard and Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel can find the right assistant coaches — or even maintain the current trio — it could make the transition significantly smoother.
The Wolverine Lounge took a look at some names who fit the bill:
Luke Yaklich, Saddi Washington and DeAndre Haynes (Michigan)
This trio of current assistants established itself as one of the nation’s best staffs under Beilein, and the value of keeping it intact is nearly immeasurable. Yaklich, the defensive guru of the group, has been linked to Texas in the last week, while Haynes and Washington’s plans remain unclear.
Since Beilein’s departure, this group has maintained the Wolverines’ recruiting efforts. 2019 four-star wing Cole Bajema and 2020 four-star guard Zeb Jackson remained committed to Michigan, while 2019 four-star forward Jalen Wilson is still considering the Wolverines after re-opening his recruitment a week ago.
Recruiting aside, keeping this trio together would bridge the program’s two eras and give the players the comfort a sentiment of continuity amid major turnover. They’ve all presumably taken bits and pieces from Beilein’s philosophies, which Howard and Michigan could value.
Jay Smith (Kalamazoo)
As a basketball legend in the state of Michigan, Smith tallied a state record 2,841 points during his high school days at Mio Au Sable (1976-79). After his playing days came to a close at Bowling Green and Saginaw Valley State, Smith spent five years as an assistant at Kent State. In 1989, he began a seven-year stint as a member of Michigan’s coaching staff, when he coached Howard and the rest of the Fab Five.
In 1996, Smith left Ann Arbor for a head coaching gig at Grand Valley State. He spent one season at GVSU before beginning a nine-year tenure as Central Michigan’s head coach. He won a pair of conference championships at CMU, took down No. 15 Creighton in the first round of the 2003 NBA Tournament and coached Chris Kaman, who was eventually selected in the first round of the 2003 NBA Draft.
Once he left CMU, Smith spent eight seasons as an assistant at Detroit Mercy. He is currently the head coach of Kalamazoo College, but would bring five programs’ worth of experience to Howard’s staff at Michigan.
Tim Miles (ex-Nebraska)
After seven years at the helm of Nebraska, the Cornhuskers decided to cut ties with Miles after a 13th-place finish in last season’s Big Ten standings. If Howard is looking for somebody with experience in building a Big Ten program, Miles should emerge as a legitimate candidate. After posting a 5-13 Big Ten record in his first season, Miles went 11-7 and finished fourth in the conference standings just a season later.
Miles has also made other notable coaching stops at Colorado State and North Dakota State, where he posted records of 71-88 and 99-71, respectively. He has a total of 24 seasons under his belt and owns a 399-334 mark.
Doug Wojcik (Michigan State)
If Michigan emphasizes experience in its coaching search, Michigan State recruiting coordinator Doug Wojcik could stick out. With nine years as a head coach and 15 seasons as an assistant under his belt, Wojcik is a veteran on the bench. He succeeded at Michigan State, Notre Dame, North Carolina, and Navy as an assistant before compiling a 178-121 overall record as a head coach at Tulsa and the College of Charleston. He also served as a special assistant to Gonzaga head coach Mark Few during the 2015-16 season.
While Wojcik brings experience to the job, he could also add a dimension to the Howard era as a recruiter. Howard hasn’t recruited at the college level before, but Wojcik played an instrumental role in UNC’s recruiting efforts when the Tar Heels landed the nation’s second-ranked classes in 2001 and 2002.
Kyle Neptune (Villanova)
Neptune, still younger than 40, is the least experienced on this list but his track record shows success and versatility. Neptune played at Lehigh (2004-2007) before joining Villanova’s staff as a video coordinator in 2008. There, he helped Villanova reach the Final Four prior to making stops at Niagara and Hofstra. He returned to Villanova in 2013, where he has remained an assistant for the last six seasons.
During his current Villanova stint, Neptune has played a role in earning two national titles and five Big East championships. He’s been the Swiss Army knife of the program, contributing to recruiting efforts, player development, film breakdown and game plans. Villanova posted its lowest win total since 2012-13 last season, so now might be an attractive time for Neptune to move on if the Wolverines come calling.
Mark Schmidt (St. Bonaventure)
Another experienced candidate, Schmidt would ease the transition from the veteran Beilein to the rookie Howard. After spending seven seasons as an assistant at Xavier, he’s posted a 292-258 record as a head coach at Robert Morris (2001-2007) and St. Bonaventure’s (2007-present) over the last 18 years.
Howard is a highly-touted defensive mind, so Schmidt’s recent offensive success could add variety to the staff. Two season ago, his St. Bonaventure’s team led the Atlantic 10 in scoring at 76.8 points per game and earned a school-record 608 free throws by attacking downhill. That system could translate nicely to an offense centered around a Simpson-Teske pick and roll in Ann Arbor next season.