Michigan Wolverines Basketball Coaches Juwan Howard, Kim Barnes Arico On Program Synergy
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Juwan Howard, Kim Barnes Arico On Synergy Between U-M Men's, Women's Hoops

It was a banner season for the 2020-21 Michigan Wolverines men's and women's basketball programs. Juwan Howard coached the men to a regular-season Big Ten conference title and run to the Elite Eight, while Kim Barnes Arico helmed the women to their first Sweet Sixteen appearance in program history.

The two programs share more than just recent success on the court. While they play in different leagues, the men and women are as tight-knit as programs as they are in the level of play they bring every night.

"Juwan Howard is a pretty special man," Barnes Arico said on Thursday at Big Ten Basketball Media Days in Indianapolis. "When he first got to Michigan, I had been there for a number of years, and he'd be sitting and watching practice. He would be like, 'Are you kidding? We're family, this is what we do. This is what we do at Michigan.'

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Michigan Wolverines head coach Juwan Howard.
Michigan Wolverines men's hoops head coach Juwan Howard is a strong supporter of the women's program. (AP Images)

"We'd have a game. He would be in the front row -- this is COVID -- of the arena. One of our players would make a play, have an and-one, he would get up, swinging his hands. After I'd say, 'Thanks, Coach, for coming to the game, bringing your family to the game.' He said, 'No, this what we do at Michigan. We're a Michigan family.'

"He does that with our program and also with every team in the university."

Howard's outward support of Michigan's women has always been apparent and had nothing but kind words to offer about his Crisler Center peer.

"Well, I'm so happy for Kim and the program and the success they had last season," Howard during his podium session. "They had to endure and deal with a lot. The way how they responded was a reflection on the head coach. She's a great person, a fighter, smart. She has an amazing staff. Then to see the success of how it all panned out towards the end. Unfortunately, they did not want the season to end the way it did, just like us.

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"I'm just happy to be a part of and sharing in the same building with someone who is opening, welcoming, fun, smart. I sit in some of her practices and watch, watch how her team competes, watch her staff is able to help lead those young ladies and developing them to become the best version of themselves. I've learned a lot from her. I will continue to support her program (and) the players because they are beautiful people, man. They're very talented. I'm going to be their biggest fan."

The two programs have the talent and resources to be competitive on their own, but the synergy between the two programs helps them bring the best out of each other.

"Our men and our women are together every day," Barnes Arico said. "We share the same facilities. We spend a lot of time with each other. I think we have mutual respect for each other. It's a great relationship to have. It's really a difference-maker, for sure."

The Michigan women open their season on Nov. 4 in an exhibition game against Grand Valley State at Crisler Center. The men kick things off on Nov. 5 in their own exhibition tilt at Wayne State University.

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