By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Juwan Howard should hope that he only gets suspended for his unacceptable behavior in the moments after Michigan’s loss at Wisconsin on Sunday.
Because a strong case could be made for Michigan terminating its men’s basketball coach based on what happened in the post-game handshake line.
Howard was upset that Wisconsin coach Greg Gard called a timeout in the closing seconds of the game, and with the Badgers leading by double figures.
Instead of shaking hands, the two head coaches had a heated discussion that escalated to where Howard clearly threw a punch at Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft that landed on the side of Krabbenhoft’s face.
It was an ugly scene in which Juwan Howard’s behavior crossed the line.
A head coach is supposed to be a peace maker in these types of situations, someone who tries to prevent a situation from getting out of hand, and yet, Howard only made it worse.
If Howard had a problem with Gard, he should’ve addressed it with him privately and like an adult.
And while there are two sides to every argument, Howard clearly threw a punch at an opposing coach.
Even Bobby Knight never went that far as he only threw a chair in one of his many moments of rage.
Michigan now has a major problem on its hands, because at the least, Howard deserves a lengthy suspension.
Words are one thing.
A punch is another.
Howard is supposed to set an example for his players, but he failed miserably on Sunday.
He sunk to a level of behavior that is just unacceptable.
It’s also embarrassing for Michigan, and for the Big Ten Conference.
Howard’s return to his alma mater where he was part of the legendary Fab Five in the early 1990s has been an inspirational story, and has mostly produced positive results on the court, although, with Sunday’s loss, Michigan fell to 14-11 overall.
But wins and losses shouldn’t matter in this case.
Michigan has to send a strong message in how it chooses to discipline Howard, and the Big Ten also has to take a stand.
As for Greg Gard, he probably should’ve just let Howard walk by without trying to have a discussion in the handshake line because that appeared to be Howard’s intention.
But Gard moved in Howard’s path and made contact with Howard before initiating a conversation that quickly became heated.
Maybe Gard wanted to explain his actions near the end of the game, but Howard wanted no part of it.
Gard should’ve just moved on after it became apparent that Howard didn’t want to hear his explanation, while Howard would’ve been smarter to have avoided the handshake line, but he didn’t and now he is in big trouble.
And deservedly so.
Statement from University of Michigan Athletic Director Warde Manuel: pic.twitter.com/GVt0zxcgLN
— Michigan Athletics 〽️ (@UMichAthletics) February 20, 2022
Gard could’ve, and probably should have, done more to avoid a potential altercation, but he also didn’t throw a punch.
Howard had a right to voice his displeasure, but there is way of doing that in a professional manner, and the moment Howard threw a punch, open-handed or not, he crossed the line of acceptable behavior.
It’s fair to assume that there were some nasty and provocative things being said by both sides in the heat of the moment, but words are not the same as throwing a punch.
It’s that simple.
Howard also had an incident last season in which he charged at former Maryland coach Mark Turgeon. But thankfully, no punches were thrown and neither coach was suspended.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case on Sunday in Madison as Howard clearly threw a punch.
Michigan, or the Big Ten, now has to respond with no less than a lengthy suspension.
A fight broke out between Michigan and Wisconsin during the postgame handshake line. pic.twitter.com/AiWIwyzj8w
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) February 20, 2022