He never addressed a possible coaching future while speaking with reporters during a reception on Jalen Rose Day.

But at Michigan’s 49-43 win over Illinois Feb. 23, former NBA and Fab Five star Jalen Rose sure seemed like a future college coach.

Before tipoff, every Wolverine starter went over to Rose’s courtside seat to pound fists as if he were another assistant coach.

Players didn’t leave until each got a nod of approval from Rose, some even waiting for a last word of encouragement. Heck, Rose even coached one current Michigan player – sophomore DeShawn Sims – in a Detroit summer league a few years ago.

And when asked before the game what he wanted to get out of the day, one meant to honor his contributions to the community, Rose wasn’t concerned with his achievements.

Like a coach, his focus was on the game at hand.

“The team has been struggling this year, so I want them to play the best game of the season,” Rose said.

So if the players already treat him like a coach, and he’s already talking like a coach, why isn’t Rose a part of the Michigan basketball program?

Yes, I realize there’s a stigma attached to the Fab Five, seeing as Chris Webber, Rose’s childhood friend, can’t have anything to do with the program until 2013.

But do you realize it’s been 15 years since Webber last took the court in a Michigan jersey? Snoop Dogg was accused that same year of being an accomplice to a murder. Now, he has a reality show on E! about his parenting skills. Much has changed.

Frankly, it’s about time this program lets bygones be bygones and gets back to winning basketball games legitimately. And part of letting go of the past is letting Rose get back in the fold.

“There’s no shame,” Rose said of the Ed Martin scandal. “What was said was said. What was alleged was alleged. But ultimately, time heals all wounds, in my opinion. It’s going to be time to move on eventually. I just hope I’m not in a wheelchair or walking in a cane or in a gravesite when it happens. I want to be here to see it.”

I’m not condoning Webber – and likely some of his teammates – receiving NBA salaries while at Michigan. In 2002, Rose said he accepted pocket money from Martin, but he wasn’t part of the NCAA investigation.

But at the same time, I’m done condoning the Wolverines’ recent performance on the court. For the team, the problem is easy to identify. It’s just much harder to fix than Michigan coach John Beilein may have thought. As open shot after open shot clanked off the rim this season, it became clear that the Wolverines lack talent.

To his credit, Beilein is trying to fix this. He has already brought in Arizona transfer Laval Lucas-Perry, along with three Beilein-esque players (read: great shooters lacking in athleticism but ripe for development) in the 2008 recruiting class.

When explaining why he wanted to Michigan at his introductory press conference last April, Beilein spoke of a desire to go after the nation’s elite recruits. He thought the Michigan brand gave him that ability. So far, it has gotten him in the door with the top AAU stars, but no 4- or 5-star recruits have signed on yet.

That would change if Rose were walking into the homes of recruits on behalf of the program. With his accomplished 13-year NBA career, which ended last season, recruits would see a recognizable face they could associate with past Wolverine basketball glory.

Put him alongside fellow Detroit natives Sims and freshman Manny Harris, and the Wolverines will have a stranglehold on the fertile recruiting territory that is the Detroit Public School League. Rose may have been nomadic during his pro career, playing for six teams, but he remains a local legend from his days at Detroit Southwestern High School.

And judging from Rose’s halftime speech two weeks ago, when he cut off the band, which began playing “The Victors” before he finished his speech and thanked his Fab Five teammates, none of his signature charisma has disappeared since he left Ann Arbor in 1994.

Rose as a coach just makes too much sense. But then again, that’s what we said about Les Miles, too.

Rose said two weeks ago he planned to sit down with Beilein after this season to talk about anything basketball-related.

For the program’s sake, let’s hope the conversation revolves around making every day Jalen Rose Day for the Michigan basketball program.

– Giannotto can be reached at mgiann@umich.edu.

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