By Pat Harty
Iowa senior point guard Jordan Bohannon began his post-game interview on Friday by making a statement in support of Iowa head coach Fran McCaffery.
Iowa had just defeated Wisconsin 62-57 in the Big Ten Tournament quarterfinals in Indianapolis when Bohannon addressed what he considers a double-standard against his head coach.
Bohannon referred to two recent incidents, one in which Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard publicly criticized the officials following a 77-73 loss to Iowa last Sunday in the regular-season finale at Carver-Hawkeye Arena, but wasn’t even reprimanded by the Big Ten Conference, let alone suspended.
The other incident involved Michigan head coach Juwan Howard, who was ejected from Friday’s victory over Maryland in the quarterfinals after trying to charge at Maryland head coach Mark Turgeon during an altercation.
Howard said afterwards that he reacted to Turgeon charging him, and yet, Howard wasn’t suspended, or even disciplined before Saturday’s semifinal against Ohio State. Howard wasn’t disciplined despite having clearly charged at Turgeon.
“I just want to start out with having the controversy about coach Howard today, and what happened to coach Gard last week after our controversial ending and criticizing the refs, I think coach McCaffery has been treated very unfairly throughout the entire country on how he’s been perceived,” Bohannon said. “He gets a T and he’s portrayed as this bad person, and everyone that knows him personally knows that’s not the case.
“I feel like he hasn’t been treated as fairly as a coach Howard has been to everyone else, as well as coach Gard.”
Bohannon, obviously, is biased.
Fran McCaffery is his head coach, and the one head coach from a Power Five Conference who believed in Bohannon enough to give him a scholarship.
Greg Gard, on the other hand, chose not to give Bohannon a scholarship, even though two of Bohannon’s older brothers had played for Wisconsin.
But Jordan Bohannon still can be biased and right at the same time. And he’s right about the double standard against Fran McCaffery.
“I love coach McCaffery, one of the few coaches in the country that gave me an opportunity to play here,” Bohannon said. “I have the utmost respect for him, one of the most human, decent persons that I’ve ever been a part.”
Howard, more than once, had to be restrained by his support staff from charging towards the Maryland bench.
It was disturbing to see a head coach so out of control, but you also have to wonder what Turgeon said to make Howard lose it.
Turgeon said afterwards that all he said to Howard was “don’t talk to me.”
And while that might be the case, it seems odd that Howard would have become so upset over that.
Howard said Turgeon charged at him and that he was only preparing to defend himself.
“That right there, I don’t know how you guys was raised, but how I was raised by my grandfather and also by Chicago — because I was raised by Chicago and I grew up in the south side — when guys charge you, it’s time to defend yourself,” Howard said to the media afterwards.. “Especially when a grown man charges you.
“That right there, I went into defense mode, forgetting exactly where I’m at. That’s not the right way how to handle the situation when you come and charge someone. I didn’t charge him. So when he charged me, I reacted. I reacted out of defense. That’s it. Words were exchanged. And then I got tossed. That’s the story.”
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, but whatever the case, imagine if Fran McCaffery had to be restrained by his assistant coaches from charging at the opposing head coach during an altercation.
Or, imagine if Fran McCaffery had publicly accused the officials of turning the hook-and-hold rule into a mockery at the expense of one his players.
Gard was upset about a flagrant foul that was called against Wisconsin senior guard Brad Davison in the closing minutes of last Sunday’s loss to Iowa. Davison became entangled with Iowa freshman forward Keegan Murray and the officials after reviewing the play ruled that Davison had committed a flagrant foul.
“The area that I really want to address, maybe people have questions about it, is the mockery that has now been made of the hook and hold,” Gard said. “It appears to have become a Brad Davison rule. Where it’s become, quite frankly, a joke.
“Any time there’s a foul in question, the opponents are yelling to the officials about the monitor. If college basketball is headed in this direction, we’re in big trouble. It sickens me that we have games decided like this. That rule was not put in place for that. That was for safety of players, for post play.”
Gard certainly has a right to his opinion, and to defend his player. But to call something related to officiating a mockery and a joke, and to say more or less that the officials are prejudice against one of his players, is pretty strong criticism.
Fran McCaffery was suspended for two games in 2019 after a reporter for the Toledo Blade observed him cursing at an official following a loss at Ohio State.
McCaffery reportedly shouted expletives and called the official a cheater and a disgrace.
It was an ugly and embarrassing incident for McCaffery, and for the Iowa basketball program, and McCaffery deserved to be suspended for two games.
Fran McCaffery also was suspended for one game in 2014 after having been ejected from a loss at Wisconsin. So he has some history and baggage.
But what about fairness and consistency?
You could argue that Howard’s behavior was worse because he kept trying to charge at the opposing head coach.
And yet, Howard wasn’t suspended for today’s game, nor was Gard suspended, or even disciplined for his remarks.
To suggest that the officials are conspiring against one of your players is a serious accusation.
It’s no secret that Fran McCaffery has a temper, and that he, sometimes, has fits of rage during a game, or in the case of the Ohio State game in 2019, immediately afterwards.
But that still doesn’t mean Fran McCaffery should be judged and disciplined differently.
It seems hard to believe that Fran McCaffery would have been allowed to coach in today’s Big Ten Tournament semifinal against Illinois if he had behaved the way Howard did on Friday.
And don’t get the wrong impression, I admire and respect Juwan Howard. I respected him as part of Michigan’s legendary Fab Five, as an NBA player, and now as the Michigan head coach. It’s incredible what he has accomplished in a short time, and as a first-time head coach.
Greg Gard also has my respect and might be the most underrated coach in the Big Ten.
All I’m saying is like Bohannon, I see a double standard in which some coaches have a longer leash than others, and nobody seems to have a shorter leash right now than Fran McCaffery.
And that’s not fair.