Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel isn't just trying to replace a winning basketball coach. He's trying to find a coach who will keep the program's established culture intact.
Winning, obviously, is important. But sleeping is more important.
For many U-M alumni and for much of the school's basketball community - including many former players - the best part of John Beilein's tenure was that it afforded restful nights.
No one worried about the police blotter. Or the NCAA policing committee. Or whether Beilein would say the wrong thing after a tough loss.
They knew what they were getting. Now it's up to Manuel to make certain that continues.
And that means taking a chance. The right kind of chance.
On a coach who has to prove he can win. Instead of a coach who has to prove he can fit at U-M.
Because winning is not enough.
Yes, the Big Ten titles and NCAA Tournament runs are a big reason why Beilein's departure to the NBA stings. Yet it's an understatement to say that losing Beilein the person was as painful.
Which helps explains why Juwan Howard and LaVall Jordan are on Michigan's list to take over its basketball program. Both candidates make sense.
Lots of sense.
Not just because they know the place - Howard played for U-M's Fab Five; Jordan coached under Beilein - but because both embody the spirit of the school and of what Beilein built.
That's where Manuel must start.
Not by making a call to Rick Pitino, which wasn't going to happen anyway. Nor by making a call to Texas Tech's Chris Beard, who made the NCAA title game last month and who recently signed a six-year $27.45 million contract, which is roughly $4.6 million per year, some $800,000 more than Beilein's $3.8 million salary at U-M.
Beard is likely too expensive. And while he's a very good coach and knows how to win, he may not be the best fit in Ann Arbor.
It's not worth the chance.
Howard or Jordan are. Because the only risk is that they'd lose. This a risk worth taking, especially at U-M, which is a football school anyway - it still drives the athletic department and the fancy of most alums.
U-M's decision makers won't admit this, of course. But what they want more than anything is to not have to worry.
Besides, there is no reason that either Howard or Jordan couldn't win.
And who would have the better chance?
That's what Manuel is trying to figure out now. Any coaching hire is a roll of the dice.
Of the two, Jordan has more resume to study. He left Beilein's staff at U-M in 2016 to take over at the University of Milwaukee-Wisconsin. His team lost 24 games that season but made the Horizon League title game.
The next year, Butler hired him to replace Chris Holtmann. He went 21-14, knocked off No. 1 Villanova in the regular season and made the NCAA tournament, losing in the second round. Last season, Butler fell to 16-17 and wound up in the NIT.
It's hard to tell much after two seasons. But Manuel knows Jordan is good enough to lead a team to the NCAA Tournament.
He also knows Jordan. Knows his temperament - it's not unlike Beilein's. Knows that he understands what U-M expects. And knows that Jordan was instrumental in helping Beilein build Big Ten contenders - he is more than a fine strategist.
What Manuel doesn't know - and here's the risk - is whether Jordan can consistently identify the kind of talent that suits U-M's culture and then win with it. Beilein was a unicorn that way. A Michigan man even though he didn't start out as a Michigan man.
Howard, meanwhile, has been a Michigan man since he was a teenager. He was the steadiest member of the Fab Five and left the school without a whiff of that era's scandal.
And though he's never been a head coach, he's put in the work to earn the chance. Which is why his name has surfaced on short lists when NBA head coaching vacancies pop open.
Howard played 19 years in the NBA. He's been an assistant on Erik Spoelstra's staff with the Miami Heat since 2013. In other words, he knows how to grind.
The issue is whether he knows how to recruit and run his own program. Again, that's the risk. But, again, what would U-M be risking by giving Howard a shot?
And U-M knows there is a lot more at stake than losing.
There is sleep. And peace of mind.
Risking either isn't worth it.
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