Michigan basketball looking to regroup after Juwan Howard suspension

Assistant Phil Martelli will fill in during Howard’s absence

As was announced Monday (Feb. 21) night, Michigan Wolverines basketball coach Juwan Howard is suspended for the final five games of the regular season. Filling in during coach Howard's absence will be assistant Phil Martelli, who spoke to the media Tuesday (Feb. 22) for the first time.

ANN ARBOR – Michigan Wolverines basketball coach Juwan Howard is suspended for the final five games of the regular season, the school announced Monday (Feb. 21).

Filling in during coach Howard’s absence will be assistant Phil Martelli, who spoke to the media Tuesday.

“I am no Juwan Howard,” Martelli said. “I am going to be me.”

That’s how Martelli opened his press conference. Michigan’s associate head coach is now the interim head coach. He will fill in for coach Howard during the five-game suspension for his role in what happened Sunday at the Kohl Center.

Martelli, the former St. Joseph’s head coach for 24 years, said he could run a practice, and he can run a game.

“I told the players that yesterday,” Martelli said. “I’m not replacing Juwan, but what we have in place is the way we will play.”

Martelli said a remorseful Howard addressed everyone via text late Sunday (Feb. 20) night but hasn’t had contact with the team in person since. On Monday, Martelli said Athletic Director Warde Manuel laid out all the facts to the players and team personnel.

Martelli called it a masterclass in leadership.

“He was very blunt with everyone,” Martelli said. “He was very clear that’s not going to be repeated. Escalations like that have no place in the game and everyone involved, not just those suspended, everyone involved, everyone learned a hard lesson.”

Martelli said the emotions were high Sunday afternoon. In an instant, everyone went in the wrong direction. When he was asked about the idea of getting rid of the handshake line in light of recent events, the coach who’s been in the game for four decades said absolutely not.

“Do not get rid of them,” Martelli said. “We can’t give in. This is about more than basketball. This is about teaching young people lessons. Not just the players, but all young people watching and who support this program. Man up. Man up!”

University of Michigan regent Denise Ilitch responded to Local 4 News for comment. She released this statement on Tuesday:

“Coach Howard is a good man who made a mistake, for which he apologized. His love for Michigan has been on display since he returned to Ann Arbor, and I’m confident his statement was issued from the heart and was genuine. As Coach Howard said himself, his actions after Sunday’s game were not consistent with his or the University of Michigan’s values and must not happen again. I personally hope all parties learn from this unfortunate situation and that focus can immediately return to our student-athletes and the competition on the court.”

Michigan will take the court without Howard on Wednesday in a home matchup vs. the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. Tip-off is at 7 p.m. on the Big Ten Network.

About the Authors:

Jamie anchors sports coverage on Local 4 News Saturdays at 6 & 11 p.m. and Sunday at 6 p.m., in addition to hosting Sports Final Edition.

Brandon Carr is a digital content producer for ClickOnDetroit and has been with WDIV Local 4 since November 2021. Brandon is the 2015 Solomon Kinloch Humanitarian award recipient for Community Service.