Michigan coach Juwan Howard experienced both the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat following the 11-seed Wolverines’ 76-68 win over 3-seed Tennessee on Saturday in the NCAA Tournament.
Howard’s gain was Tennessee’s pain, as the Wolverines’ second-round victory – the first two-game win streak for the team since Feb. 8 and 10 – knocked the SEC Tournament champion from the tournament. In a moment that was perfectly emblematic of March Madness, Howard was seen consoling Volunteers freshman Kennedy Chandler, hugging the distraught player after what could have been the final game of his collegiate career:
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– CBS Sports (@CBSSports) March 20, 2022
It’s not uncommon for coaches to talk to opposing players in the handshake line, though perhaps not to the degree Howard went with Chandler, who finished with a team-high 19 points on 9-of-19 shooting. Howard recruited Chandler, the No. 1 point guard and No. 9 overall player in the 2021 recruiting class, to play at Michigan.
That said, the two have history that extends back a ways, even before the third-year Michigan coach began recruiting him to Ann Arbor. As noted by 247Sports, Howard has known Chandler since at least the latter’s fourth- or fifth-grade year, as both he and Howard’s son, Jett, played on the same team.
“I think they got in on (the recruitment) during Peach Jam,” Chandler’s father, Kylan Chandler, told 247Sports in March 2020. “Because, you know, I’ve been knowing Juwan ever since Kennedy was in the fourth or fifth grade As a matter of fact, I coached his son. He was on the same team, when Kennedy used to go play for a team in Florida called the Nightrydas when they were younger. The son named Jett… I used to coach both of them. . “
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That familiarity eventually turned into a recruiting tool for Howard when it became evident Chandler would become a blue-chip prospect.
“Juwan remembers him from when he was younger,” Kylan Chandler said. “Juwan told us and told Kennedy that. He said that his game has really grown. Kennedy has gotten taller as well, more athletic and especially his speed. His speed downhill is unbelievable. But that (history) did kind of connect a little bit Ever since then, after Juwan saw him this summer, we’ve (been) talking.
“It was what I expected, and I knew Juwan is going to put more into it.”
Though the Wolverines were among the finalists for Chandler, he ultimately chose Rick Barnes and the Volunteers. It’s clear, however, that his choice did not adversely affect his relationship with Howard.