Juwan Howard 'Comfortable' With Suspension For Simpson

"We had some really good conversations, just the two of us,"

Will Burchfield
February 07, 2020 - 4:21 pm
Simpson, Howard

© Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

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When Juwan Howard got the phone call about Zavier Simpson, sometime in the early-morning hours of a Saturday night, his first thought wasn't about the fall-out on the court. It wasn't about the fact his senior co-captain had broken a team rule or that he'd have to be punished. 

It certainly wasn't about the fact the car Simpson crashed belonged to the family of Michigan's athletic director. 

"I was just worried about his safety, his health," Howard said Friday, as he addressed the media for the first time since the details of Simpson's recent suspension went public. "Because when you hear things like that, the first thing is my heart goes to the person who’s involved in it, and what is their state, and praying to god that they didn’t hurt themselves."

Simpson was by all accounts fine, after driving into a street pole in downtown Ann Arbor around 3 a.m. on Jan 26. But he was in violation of team curfew, Howard said, thus the one-game suspension that followed. 

"That's something he’s aware of, as well as all his other teammates, being out at a time of the evening that’s not acceptable," said Howard. "We all have those type of rules that we have to abide by, and that was something I was not happy with whatsoever. I felt that it was important that no matter who you are, if you’re my best player, if you’re my 15th player, that there’s rules you have to respect."

Questions Remain, But Michigan Not In 'Crisis Mode' Over Simpson Incident

The car Simpson was driving, which had to be towed from the scene, was registered to the wife of Warde Manuel. The couple had passed it down to their son, a student manager for the basketball team, and he had let Simpson borrow it the night of the crash. 

The optics aren't ideal -- the basketball team's starting point guard using a car that came from the athletic director. Howard declined to comment on that, other than to say it's a "personal" matter between Simpson and the owner of the car. 

"It’s not important for me to say whose car he should drive," said Howard.

While questions remain about the incident -- namely that Simpson lied to police -- Howard said "right now, we've moved on." Simpson served his suspension last Tuesday in Michigan's win over Nebraska and was reinstated Friday before the team's win over Rutgers. 

Asked why he waited three days to declare Simpson's suspension over, Howard said, "I wanted to find out what the police report stated. At the time when it didn’t come out quick enough, I was comfortable with the one-game suspension and I still live by that. I felt that he understood that he made a mistake and it’s time to move on from it."

"We had some really good conversations, just the two of us," Howard added. "We looked each other in the eye, and he understands where I’m coming from and he understand the rules that are in place."

Michigan, 1-1 since Simpson's return, takes on Michigan State Saturday afternoon in Ann Arbor.