Michigan’s Sherrone Moore and Dusty May can gain insights from Jim Harbaugh and Juwan Howard regarding coaching strategies, player development techniques, team management, and fostering a winning culture within their….

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, Jim Harbaugh and Juwan Howard commanded attention wherever they went, epitomizing Michigan royalty with their status as former professional athletes and celebrities. Their presence at Michigan infused their respective programs with an undeniable sense of significance and grandeur. Schembechler Hall and the Crisler Center became hubs of excitement, with sightings of icons like Ric Flair and the Fab Five adding to the allure. When Harbaugh and Howard made appearances, it transformed any occasion into a noteworthy event.
Both coaches possessed the ability to be warm and personable when desired, yet they also exhibited challenging and distant behaviors, even within their own circles. With their departures, Sherrone Moore and Dusty May, the new coaches, can draw valuable lessons from their predecessors’ experiences in determining the extent of their public personas. Harbaugh could project an image of an ordinary suburban father, maintaining his lawn and tending to backyard chickens, but beneath this facade was a formidable coach who established a formidable presence around his team. Conversely, Howard was even more reserved, as revealed in a rare candid interview with The Athletic following his dismissal, where he admitted that his failure to establish personal connections may have hindered his effectiveness.
Folks really don’t know me at all, whatsoever, and part of that is my fault,” Howard said. “Could I have been more politically correct like some of these other guys at other programs, done a better job of playing that game? Letting the world into my private life? If that would’ve saved my job, then yeah, I should’ve.”
That comment was revealing on multiple levels. It’s a cynical view of authenticity, though not necessarily a false one, to suggest that coaches who let people into their lives are simply playing a game. From the outside, the lack of openness and accountability wasn’t just a public relations issue; it was part of the overall decline of the program. There weren’t many people who could get through to Howard, and his own instincts — including his decision to rush back as quickly as possible after major heart surgery — sometimes got the better of him.
Howard was steadfast in his approach, as evidenced by his repeated assertion that “This s— works,” even during a disappointing 3-17 record in the Big Ten. However, it ultimately proved ineffective, leading to his dismissal from the Michigan coaching position. His termination, occurring merely two months after Harbaugh’s departure to the NFL, marks the onset of a new chapter for Michigan, signifying multiple changes this spring.
The last time Michigan entered a season with new coaches in football and men’s basketball was 1948, a year that has historic parallels with the present. The Michigan football team was coming off of an undefeated season in 1947 under Fritz Crisler, who also served as athletic director. Following Crisler’s retirement as football coach, Bennie Oosterbaan took over and led Michigan to another undefeated season in 1948. The same year, Michigan promoted assistant coach Ernie McCoy to replace basketball coach Ozzie Cowles, who left for Minnesota.
Michigan had periods of major change in the years to follow, including the hiring of Johnny Orr in 1968 and the arrival of Bo Schembechler a year later. Schembechler’s final season, 1989, coincided with Steve Fisher’s first full season as head basketball coach. John Beilein’s first season, beginning in fall 2007, was Lloyd Carr’s last.

For the past five years, the Wolverines had Michigan men leading the football and men’s basketball programs. And not just any Michigan men, but two of the most famous alums in their respective sports. The result was a strong identification with Michigan’s past — arguably too strong at times — and frequent callbacks to the Fab Five era and Schembechler’s heyday.

Trying to channel the past is great when it works, as did for Harbaugh the past three seasons, but not so great when a Michigan icon like Howard is faltering. Presented with two coaching vacancies in rapid succession, athletic director Warde Manuel went in different directions by promoting Harbaugh’s top assistant and hiring one of the most sought-after basketball coaches on the market.
One is a former junior college offensive lineman, the other a former student manager at Indiana. Both will differ from their predecessors in important ways. While the basketball program is undergoing a total transformation, the vibe around the football program is more like Harbaugh-lite, the same general philosophy without the quirky head coach.
Even with talents like J.J. McCarthy and Blake Corum, Harbaugh remained the focal point. Despite his ability to maintain distance from outsiders, Harbaugh had a knack for attracting attention to himself, sometimes inadvertently. Some speculated that his attention-grabbing remarks were strategic, aimed at promoting the program or deflecting scrutiny from his players. However, Moore, in contrast, prefers to keep a low profile, intentionally staying away from the limelight since Harbaugh’s departure.

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