Editorial

Down Season Benefits Butler, as Michigan Hires Juwan Howard

After a stressful week and a half or so for Butler basketball fans, the Michigan men’s basketball head coaching search finally reached a resolution, as the Wolverines hired former Fab Five Star Juwan Howard.

Bulldogs fans can effectively exhale, as their young head coach, LaVall Jordan, was initially speculated to be one of Michigan’s top candidates for the opening.

Stop the flight tracking.

Stop constantly searching the Twitter feed for the latest reports.

This one’s been safely put to bed for Butler.

Formerly one of the top assistants under departed Michigan head coach John Beilein, Jordan was an early favorite for his mentor’s job and very well may have gotten it–if his Bulldogs were simply coming off a better season.

Instead, Bulldogs fans are left wondering if he even interviewed.

There’s a cliche in sports though: “You’re only as good as your record.”

And right now, the Bulldogs were tied for last in the Big East basement with a 7-11 record and a losing record at 16-17 (.485) overall in 2018-19.

If the Bulldogs had made say the “Sweet Sixteen” last season, I think there’s a very strong possibility that Jordan is receiving an introductory press conference in Ann Arbor and wearing a navy and gold tie later this week.

However, there might be a silver lining following the Bulldogs down season after all: they get to keep their head coach (and for longer than two years).

The timing simply didn’t work out for Jordan.

But it benefits Butler.

Yes, Jordan’s first two seasons haven’t been perfect at W. 49th Street.

There’s been some definite growing pains.

It’s a fair question to ask whether his offensive system could use some refinement toward his personnel. That maybe he should shorten his rotations and make more in-game adjustments to allow his team to better close out games late.

On the other hand, he’s still a very young coach, learning on the fly, and his recruiting is really starting to pick up for Butler.

He’s also just one season removed from making March Madness (and a late second Dakota Mathias three from potentially making a Sweet 16).

Jordan has a 4-star recruit Khalif Battle coming to campus this fall (along with a classic intangible Butler big in the making, John Michael-Mulloy), and he just added a Class of 2020 4-star point guard recruit, Chuck Harris, early last week.

He’s recently landed two coveted transfers, swingman Jordan Tucker and center Derrik Smits, who both (will) help fill major needs on the team.

Butler’s head coach is actively recruiting, seemingly blazing on the trail right now, with a serious shot of snagging other 4-star Class of 2020 recruits such as SG Eugene Brown, SF Scooby Johnson, and PG Tyler Beard.

Not to mention, the Bulldogs have already offered a pair of promising point guards in 2020: Lawrence Central star Nijel Pack and international standout Santiago Vescovi as well.

Regardless of whether Jordan can improve his in-game coaching, by adding improved talent, he ensures that he’s going to get players who can better run his system–which means a superior playing product on the court.

Losing Jordan would have meant the Bulldogs would have had to hire their 5th head coach in 8 years, which would mean they’d potentially lose incoming recruits such as Battle and Harris, as well as the relationships he had previously built with potential future recruits–which take time.

It would’ve signaled a systemic problem for the Butler program, where it simply cannot keep its head coaches–often serving as a feeder league for the Big Ten.

It could’ve caused future recruits to think twice about committing to Butler for the foreseeable future, knowing full well that they could have a new head coach by their junior year–should the Bulldogs uncertain head coaching pattern continue.

Instead, Butler gets the opportunity to keep its young head coach, who has shown some encouraging signs of starting to build something special for the Bulldogs–and the sorely needed program stability that comes along with it.