The departure of former Miami Heat assistant coach Juwan Howard resulted in the Heat having to try to find another tutor who could make a strong connection with the team.
In the opinion of Heat power forward Kelly Olynyk, Howard’s leaving to become head coach at the University of Michigan will be difficult to replace.
The 28-year-old Olynyk offered his thoughts during an appearance at a Heat youth camp and spoke about how much Howard meant to the team:
“It’s a massive loss, not only as a coach, but as a person, a mentor to a lot of guys, just his experience, his steady head, his willingness to want everybody to be better, his never-stop attitude.
“He was an integral part of the coaching staff and our team and our drive and our momentum. It’s a tough loss, but it’s a huge gain for Michigan.”
Olynyk understands the reason for the departure, given the fact that it’s Howard’s alma mater, yet plans to maintain his connection:
“It’s an unbelievable situation for him, to be able to go back there 25 years later as a head coach. That’s something you only hear of in books and movies. I don’t blame him at all. I’m super excited for him and his opportunities. That’s an opportunity you can’t pass up.
“He’ll always have family down here and somewhere to come and visit and see. But we wish him all the best up there. I think he’s going to do a fantastic job.”
The final three years of Howard’s 19-year NBA career were spent in a Heat uniform. During that short span, the team reached the NBA Finals every year and Howard closed out his career with a pair of league titles. Since retiring as a player in 2013, Howard has spent the last six seasons as an assistant with the Heat.
Despite the bond Olynyk had established with Howard, he wasn’t surprised by the decision:
“I figured he would have the opportunity if he wanted. I didn’t really talk to him a lot about his future endeavors, what he wanted to do in life. I knew he could if he wanted to. He is that capable, has those abilities. Obviously it’s what he wants to do, so kudos to him and his ability to go out and get that.”
As for Olynyk, he’s preparing for his third season with the Heat, looking to improve on his statistical averages of 9.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists in 155 games over two seasons. During the 2018-19 campaign, he started 36 contests, an increase from his first year with the team when he part of the starting lineup for 22 games.