Former Michigan coach Steve Fisher recruited Juwan Howard as the anchor to the class that became known as the Fab Five.
Howard played for Fisher from 1991-94. Those were the glory years for the Michigan program under Fisher (1989-1997) and included trips to the 1992 and ’93 national title games.
Fisher, who retired after coaching San Diego State from 1999-2017, spoke to NCAA.com about the Miami Heat assistant coach landing the head coaching job at Michigan. He replaces John Beilein, who was hired to coach the Cleveland Cavaliers.
NCAA.com: What did you see in Howard that translates into him being a head coach today?
Fisher: What I saw was a fiercely proud young guy ... He’s tremendously loyal. As a basketball player, he’s very dedicated to the craft. He wasn’t the best athlete. He wasn’t a great jumper. He was fast, he was tough, he worked on his form and technique with us. Nobody was better with footwork or with positioning or with details than Juwan Howard. That took him a long way as a player. Those qualities will wear well as a head coach. He will teach those habits. I didn’t know he would be a coach. Then I thought after he was an assistant NBA coach that he would wind up getting a head coaching job in the NBA.
NCAA.com: What does it mean for someone from the Fab Five to be coaching at Michigan?
Fisher: It means a lot to have one of our own. His grandmother died the day he signed his national letter of intent. He dealt with a lot. But one thing that needs to be mentioned here is that he was one of the first players who left early (after his junior year) to graduate on time. Juwan came back and marched with his degree with Jimmy King and Ray Jackson the next year and that says a lot about the guy. It says he was going to do it. It didn’t take him 10 years to do it.
NCAA.com: What is the legacy of the Fab Five?
Fisher: They were great people. They gave themselves for the team. But the whole crew did. They put winning above everything else. That’s not easy to do. And now look at how many of them have distinguished themselves as adults and in their lives after they left college. Juwan is one of them, but he’s not the lone ranger. That makes me proud.
NCAA.com: What do you think of Howard’s path to being a head coach after working six years as an assistant and playing 19 in the NBA?
Fisher: He laid the ground work first as a player and then with the organization with the heart and Pat Riley did things behind the bench for a number of years then on the front row as an assistant. He was never pushing himself on the head coach. He was there to be a contributor and learn. Even though he had never been a head coach. He earned his spurs to get the opportunity to be a head coach.
NCAA.com: What’s the most important decision Howard will have to make?
Fisher: Who is he going to hire as a staff? It’s critical. He needs to put together a staff that will complement him, that will be loyal to him and not be afraid to disagree when decisions are made. They need to have experience at the college level. He’ll do that.
NCAA.com: What are the chances you will go to a game?
Fisher: For sure. I will come to a game.