By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Iowa point guard Joe Toussaint grew up playing basketball on the playgrounds of New York City and in gymnasiums where being tough and fearless is necessary for survival.
He has been described as a killer by Iowa coach Fran McCaffrey in reference to Toussaint’s competitiveness and his win-at-all-cost mentality.
Toussaint plays with high energy and with high emotion and he never backs down from a challenge.
He doesn’t always make the right decisions on the court, but he always brings a level of toughness and grit that helps to fuel the team.
But there is also a time for being tough, and a time for being composed and Toussaint seems to understand the difference.
That was apparent in this past Tuesday’s 93-62 victory over Southeastern Louisiana when Toussaint was involved in an incident on the court that could’ve been much worse if not for his ability to stay composed.
Toussaint and Southeastern Louisiana guard Keon Clergeot were battling for a loose ball on the floor late in the first half when things got heated. The players were being separated when Clergeot appeared to step on Toussaint who still was on the floor.
Clergeot was clearly the aggressor and crossed the line with his behavior. That’s why he was given a flagrant two foul and was ejected from the game, while Toussaint didn’t get called for a foul, and rightfully so.
Toussaint didn’t stop from trying to get the loose ball until the officials blew the whistle, and that’s what you would expect from him. You play until the whistle and refuse to back down.
Clergeot, on the other hand, was visibly upset and turned a scrum into an altercation that could’ve led to chaos on the court if Toussaint had reacted in a similar fashion.
But instead, Toussaint kept his composure and that kept the incident from getting out of hand.
One could argue that Iowa senior guard Connor McCaffery overreacted in the heat of the moment, but he was defending his teammate and had a reason for being upset due to Clergeot’s behavior.
My guess is that if Clergeot ever challenged Toussaint away from the court that Toussaint’s reaction probably would be different.
Toussaint kept his composure not out of fear, but out of respect for the circumstances.
“You don’t want anyone to take a swing and that kind of thing can happen in a situation like that,” said Fran McCaffery. “He was composed in that situation.”
It’s scary to think what could’ve happened if Toussaint had reacted differently because it only takes a second or two for an incident to escalate.
An assistant sports information director for Southeastern Louisiana made the foolish mistake on Twitter of trying to shift the blame to Connor McCaffery and to the Iowa fans when his player clearly was at fault.
The assistant SID certainly has the right to defend his player and to push his own narrative, but the incident on the court speaks for itself.
There is difference between competing and fighting and Clergeot seemed more than willing to cross that line.
Clergeot also was laughing as he walked past the Iowa bench to the locker room after being ejected. It was just a horrible look for him, and for his team.
Fran McCaffery appeared to turn to his players right before Clergeot walked by the Iowa bench and told them not to say a word.
Fortunately, cooler heads prevailed from that point on as there were no more incidents.
Toussaint showed restraint and maturity at a time when it couldn’t have been easy.
There probably was part of him that wanted to lash out, but Toussaint seems to understand that there is a time and a place for acting tough.
And being tough doesn’t always mean acting tough because anybody can act tough in a public setting.
Sometimes, being tough means being composed when others aren’t.