Former Michigan player Juwan Howard has reportedly been offered the job to coach the Wolverines

The search for Michigan's next coach could be nearing its end with CBS Sports' Jon Rothstein reporting Wednesday that Miami Heat assistant coach Juwan Howard has an offer to be the next head coach of the Wolverines. 

For Howard, it's the obvious lure of coming home, bringing back the shimmer of the Fab Five era and a continuation of the NBA-player-to-college-coach experience that has had fluctuating degrees of success in the past half-dozen years in college hoops. 

Howard, 46, played in the NBA for nearly 20 years (1994-2013) and was of course a pillar of Michigan's Fab Five squad that made two Final Fours in the early 1990s. He has been an assistant with the Heat since 2013 and is viewed as someone with a promising future as a head coach. Will that future be in the NBA or at his alma mater? 

Take a look at what's happening in the state of Tennessee -- Penny Hardaway at Memphis, Jerry Stackhouse at Vanderbilt -- and you could be swayed by Howard's potential to kinda-clone what those two have done with recruiting. But whereas Memphis (and to a lesser extent Vanderbilt; don't forget that Bryce Drew brought in the most talented class in school history only a year ago) needed a detonation and rebirth of its program, Michigan is in a good spot, though set for a rebuild in 2019-20. 

Though Howard does not carry the same characteristics that have made Stackhouse and Hardaway (especially) invigorating hires, he has still got NBA cache. Not every former NBAer thrives in college, of course; Chris Mullin bounced on his alma mater St. John's less than two months ago, and Patrick Ewing is still working through it at Georgetown. Howard, though, certainly brings with him a lot of backing at Michigan, plus the endorsements of highly influential people at the NBA level, like Erik Spoelstra and Pat Riley, two guys who've coached teams to NBA titles as well as LeBron James and Dwyane Wade.

More than a week removed from an abrupt jettison by 12-year coach John Beilein, who has an ambitious/hellish challenge ahead of him with the sorry Cleveland Cavaliers, the Wolverines will attempt to steady by replacing -- for them -- the irreplaceable. 

Beilein won 278 games with Michigan, easily slotting him as the winningest coach in program history. Though Beilein drew interest in 2018 from two NBA franchises (Detroit, Orlando), after he made his way back to Michigan, the feeling and expectation was that he would spend the next some-odd years grinding through, into his early 70s, and possibly pushing Michigan to one or two more Final Fours -- hopefully even capturing a coveted national championship.

But that won't happen, and now Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel has a fascinating situation to solve. Michigan is a high-level, resources-rich program that finds itself shallow of tantalizing/headliner-type candidates. 

Initial feelers were put out to the two obvious NBA-latched names with college backgrounds, Brad Stevens and Billy Donovan, and both predictably said no. 

Other finalists were Providence coach Ed Cooley, who removed himself from the search Tuesday and Michigan assistant coach Luke Yaklich.

Within college basketball, there are no obvious home-run-hire names for Michigan to lure; every acknowledged "big" name is already locked up at his current school, or too entangled via contract obstructions, to leave for UM. 

This was reinforced when, on Tuesday morning, Cooley sidestepped Michigan by way of a contract extension at Providence

When it comes to hiring coaches, there's an idiom in college circles that goes something like this: Your program is only as good as the names it can attract. That's true much of the time, but with Michigan the circumstances are aberrational, the timing unfavorable. 

With Yaklich, you had a hot-name assistant who's in-house, who's already conducted multiple interviews with Michigan brass at this point and is the clearest continuation of the Beilein ideal. He has made it to this stage, elevating himself over fellow assistants Saddi Washington and DeAndre Haynes, due in good portion to his stalwart rep as a legitimate defensive mind.

Big jobs have been handed to sitting assistants before, but Yaklich has been with the program for only two years. That wasn't enough time to validate picking him over a splashier name or more experienced candidate. Yaklich has never been a head coach in college, and if you're not aware, hours after the Beilein departure was official, Manuel told reporters his preference was to hire someone who has been a head coach, a criterion that Howard and Yaklich fail to meet. 

"If I can get a proven coach, someone who has a track record as a head coach, that's what I'd like to see and then I want somebody who can coach and who can develop talent," Manuel said, per MLive.com. 

With Cooley backing out of the proceedings, it makes Manuel's move all the more intriguing. Butler coach LaVall Jordan, who is a former Beilein assistant, was also getting some early consideration. 

Manuel's also said he was going to hire someone "beyond reproach" when it came to any intonation of NCAA rules violations. 

Manuel has been through this before, remember. At UConn, he replaced school legend Jim Calhoun with former Calhoun assistant/NBA veteran Kevin Ollie, which was a good short-term hire but a disaster eventually. He has no doubt learned a few things from the process, and that's going to have untold influences on who winds up replacing Beilein. 

No matter who gets the job, that person has a real likelihood of dictating how Michigan's perceived nationally for decades to come. Consider: before Beilein broke through in 2009, Michigan missed the NCAA Tournament 10 consecutive years and was an afterthought within the Big Ten. That seems effectively impossible with the program as we know it today, but it speaks all the louder to how great Beilein was with Blue. Still, Michigan has been a program of swells and subsides. From 1985-98 Michigan made the NCAAs all but two times (five of those seasons were retroactively wiped clean by NCAA-mandated vacations). 

Go back further, starting in the 1950s, Michigan periodically had gaps where the program fell off: a 121-173 aggregate record from 1950-1963, none of those seasons involving an NCAA or NIT tournament appearance. It had a drought from 1966-74 as well. 

Here's how the program has done since the 1950-51 season. The high marks are years in which UM made the NCAA Tournament. Low marks are not. 

screen-shot-2019-05-20-at-1-41-28-pm.png

Few schools from major conferences have been up and down to this extent, nearly like a pattern of predictability. History suggests Michigan is due for a downturn, but it doesn't have to be that way. Manuel getting this hire right is imperative to that. 

You pick the proper man, you don't have the drought. You keep Michigan at a Top 25 level into the turn of the next decade.

To Manuel's own admission, Beilein's decision to jump to the NBA was a surprising one. It doesn't mean Michigan was unprepared for this scenario, but given the coaching carousel cycle wrapped nearly a month ago, it almost guarantees whomever is inevitably tapped to take over will be viewed as a downgrade from what Michigan had. I think Michigan fans realize and accept that. Going forward, it will not be about replicating Beilein's success, but rather how to maintain his general direction -- to keep momentum with a different force and style catalyzing the route.

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Matt Norlander is a national award-winning senior writer who has been with CBS Sports since 2010. He's in his ninth season reporting on college basketball for CBS, and also covers the NBA Draft, the Olympics... Full Bio

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