During a 20-minute press conference Wednesday afternoon (March 9), Howard issued another apology and talked about soul searching, the Wisconsin coaches, how his team played during his absence and the microscope that will be on him moving forward.
“I am extremely happy about being back here,” Howard said. “Today was a wonderful day to get an opportunity to coach my team, who I missed so much over the past two weeks.”
Howard gave a shoutout to his assistant coaches -- Phil Martelli, Saddi Washington and Howard Eisley -- as well as the rest of the staff for making sure the team was prepared without him the last two weeks.
But first, he delivered a full apology and discussed what has happened since the incident at Wisconsin.
Wisconsin fallout, reaching out to coaches
Howard was asked about his comments during his postgame interview moments after the Wisconsin game. He said by the time he got back to the team bus, he realized his mistake.
“I care,” Howard said. “I have a heart, and I knew when I got back on the bus that I was upset with how I conducted myself during that moment at the press conference. What I said wasn’t from the heart, and as you know, the next day, after reflecting and thinking about it, that statement that I made came from the heart, and that’s what I meant to say, and I apologize for my actions.”
Howard said he hasn’t yet reached out to Krabbenhoft because he wants to wait until after the season.
Watching from sidelines
Howard was asked about watching his team for the past two weeks. The Wolverines went 3-2 under Martelli, beating Rutgers, Michigan State and Ohio State, while losing to Illinois and Iowa.
“It’s been tough,” Howard said. “I take full responsibility. There’s no excuses, but I’ve gotten a chance to really learn -- and take a step back -- about the team, about the staff and how I can be a better coach moving forward.”
He said he watched the games at home, in the offense, at his desk. He wore the same clothes as always, because he’s superstitious.
“Michigan gear from head to toe,” Howard said.
While watching, he would rewind the game and take notes on future teaching moments. He said he heard the bracketology talk (Michigan is on the NCAA Tournament bubble), but his focus is always on the next game.
He admitted he was interested in keeping up with where Michigan would be seeded for the Big Ten Tournament, though.
Support from U of M administration, coaches, players
Howard said his conversations with Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel were “strong, great and all about learning.” He called Manuel a mentor and a big brother he can lean on.
Hunter Dickinson and other Michigan basketball players went to visit their coach during the suspension.
“I could be in tears right now, thinking about how it just meant so much that I have so much support,” Howard said. “Knowing that your players, who you’re in the trenches with every time -- and I think as every coach would assume, sometimes your players get tired of hearing your voice -- but knowing that my players are so supporting and cared about me and my well-being, that was everything to me.”
Howard said other Michigan coaches also reached out to offer support.
“There’s nothing like knowing your Michigan family loves you, and that’s what I got from it,” Howard said. “They all love me, and I love them, too.”
Nuts and bolts
Howard was asked about handshake lines and whether he thinks they should continue.
“I like it,” he said. “It also is a great example for sportsmanship in sports, and I think we should keep it.”
Moussa Diabate and Terrance Williams received one-game suspensions for their roles in the Wisconsin incident. Howard said the trio had an honest conversation.
“We had a conversation the next day as we all took a breather and calmed down (to) reflect,” Howard said. “We talked. It was a good conversation. We talked about accountability. We talked about taking ownership. We talked about no excuses, and we talked about learning through this process. I’ve also reached out to my student-athletes and parents, as well, and called them and had some good conversations. But throughout all the conversations I’ve had with my players and their parents, everyone’s been so supportive.”
Dickinson, who missed the Ohio State game on Sunday due to illness, returned to practice Wednesday for the first time. Michigan is monitoring his progress ahead of Thursday’s Big Ten Tournament opener against Indiana.
“We’re going to monitor it,” Howard said. “Unfortunately, he missed the last two practices not feeling well, and it’s sad to see for a young man who wanted to play in the Ohio State game.”
Right now, the illness has not spread to any other players, Howard said.
You can watch the full press conference below.
Here’s more on Howard’s comments from Local 4′s Bernie Smilovitz: