Has A Favorite Emerged To Replace John Beilein?

A report from 247Sports has Juwan Howard interviewing Tuesday. What does that mean for the coaching search?

Josh Henscke from The Michigan Insider broke the story last night that Howard would be interviewing early next week, and while that may be a few days later than most Michigan fans would like, it appears the search to replace John Beilein could be drawing close to its completion.

Earlier this week, I spoke to a source inside the athletic department who said a Top 2 of Howard and current Texas coach Shaka Smart had emerged. He added Butler's LaVall Jordan a day later. Sam Webb reported late Friday that current U-M assistant Luke Yaklich was in the running as is Providence head coach Ed Cooley.

My source told me this morning that Howard has emerged as the definitive favorite.

"I think the big thing is gauging his level of passion for Michigan and this job. He's interviewing for NBA vacancies too so where does his heart lie? If Michigan is his No. 1, and it's not a fallback in case the NBA doesn't work out, then I think he'll be the guy. There is a lot of growing momentum inside the athletic department for him and outside, from former teammates, smart basketball people, and some big donors. Everyone seems to love Juwan and thinks he can be really something special."

Smart is still a name to keep an eye on but the public has spoken in the last 24 hours, and none of it has been good.

"You can't make a coaching hire based off public perception, but it has been overwhelmingly negative. Don't ever let someone tell you an athletic department doesn't pay attention to that stuff. There are people on Twitter and listening to sports talk, and on message boards, and it hasn't been kind to Shaka. It would be a really tough sell. But there are a lot of things to like about him. I just think if there is a better option, you go there first [which might be Howard]."

Jordan is believed to have a buyout that would make things difficult according to both Webb and TheWolverine.com's Chris Balas, while Cooley is viewed as a Plan B guy if Howard doesn't work out, per my source.

"Good guy, really nice resume, but if you compare resumes to Juwan, he has the head-coaching experience but everything else tips Juwan's way.

"There are a lot of trusted people that are all in on Juwan. This isn't a Fab Five thing. This isn't Jalen Rose and Chis Webber saying he's the guy, but think about this - what if you had the power of the Fab Five behind Howard? What if you had the entire Michigan basketball family - because we think every era will embrace him, including Beilein's guys - so what if you had all of Michigan pulling in one direction? What could be accomplished? This is a bit like the Jim Harbaugh hire, where there are no factions. There is no divide. Even John couldn't accomplish that."

The lack of head coaching experience could be mitigated by a strong staff, and U-M would encourage the retention of strength and conditioning coach Jon Sanderson and at least one of Beilein's assistants, but Howard has so many of the other qualities that could translate to success.

"He's going to be outstanding on the recruiting trail. He's got the pedigree to attract recruits that want to play in the NBA. He has the right approach to academics and being a student-athlete at Michigan. He's a stand-up guy. He has connections all across the country. He'll have a lot of basketball people opening doors for him so that if there's a recruit he wants to talk to, he'll get that access.

"He's spent his entire career in the NBA, he knows how the game is being played offensively. He has a sharp mind. He was a battler defensively. Go back and watch how he played - high basketball IQ, worked his butt off every possession, never gave any ground defensively, really solid all-around game offensively. There is reason to have every confidence that he will be not just a great recruiter and great representative of this University but a great X's and O's coach too."

Michigan fans will have to wait a little bit longer, but there is a growing sentiment that post-interview, negotiations will begin, and if contract talks go well, Howard could be introduced before the Memorial Day weekend.