A tough season for Juwan Howard got tougher on Sunday. After Sunday’s 77-63 loss to Wisconsin, Howard and Wisconsin coach Greg Gard turned a post-game handshake line into a mosh pit of bruised egos. What started with Howard taking offense at Wisconsin by calling a timeout of 15 in the last 15 seconds degenerated into a furious controversy.
After Gard said he had requested time-out to break the press in Michigan, Howard became furious.
“Apparently he didn’t like that I called a timeout to reset the 10-second call,” Gard told me. CBS Sports† “We only had 4 seconds to get the ball over the half. I didn’t want to put my players on the bench in that position of scrambling, so I took the timeout. He didn’t like that when he came through the handshake line.”
“I didn’t like the timeout they called, I’ll be very honest,” Howard explained. “I didn’t think it was necessary at the time, especially not with a big lead. … I thought that wasn’t fair to our boys.”
What sparked the altercation were small beans. Rather than save their petty grievances for the post-game press conference, Howard approached Gard, muttering, “I’ll remember that shit.” Gard, then stepped aside in front of Howard as he walked past and grabbed his elbow.
Once Gard and Howard were nose to nose, shirts were torn and tempers ran high. Amid the yelling and pushing, Howard reached over the edge and punched Wisconsin assistant Joe Krabbenhoft on the head. Once Howard’s hand was connected, several Michigan players threw punches as well.
There’s no need to defend Howard. Inadvertently inciting his team was a particularly bad look. However, two are needed for the tango. Gard showed immaturity by intervening during his fruitless screaming. He was the winning coach. He should have gone home and enjoyed the spoils of victory while Howard cooked. Instead, he demonstrated his lack of self-control.
There has been built-up frustration on the Wolverines sidelines and Howard’s third year at the helm has been a rocky one. The Wolverines are unranked and most likely NIT tied, a significant drop from last season’s Elite Eight finish.
Sports director Manuell Warde issued a forcefully worded statement on Sunday condemning Howard’s actions, saying:
“There is no excuse for any of our staff or student athletes to get into a physical altercation with others, regardless of the instigating factors. I held out my hand and apologized [Wisconsin AD] Chris McIntosh and [Michigan] President Coleman has contacted UW Chancellor Rebecca Blank to apologize for the unacceptable behavior.”
“We will review the situation more thoroughly and work with the Big Ten Conference in determining their disciplinary action and determine whether further disciplinary action is warranted.” Warde’s statement added.
In the long run, Howard and Michigan’s relationship will survive basketball. he is too smart a head coach and valuable as a recruiter for Manuel to follow the Twitter hyperbole train and make a profound statement by severely punishing Howard or removing him from his duties. Despite his tough attitude on Sunday, he will undoubtedly want to blow this over. Michigan will still be a T . haveon 10 2022 recruiting class waiting in the wings. That class is led by the top-5o benefitspect Jett Howard, who I can guarantee will play elsewhere if it looked like his father wouldn’t return to Michigan for the 2022 season.
The last minute is better watched than the Zapruder movie, but overall, this was a minor hiccup with terrible optics in the grand scheme of things. There are some justifications for Howard’s role, but escalating things by swiping the face of a Wisconsin assistant he caught in the middle of a scrum crossed the line. Extra control is coming because he is 1.80 meters and black with a prominent position. Simply put, his job security is safe.
However, Howard needs to show more control over his temper. During their 2021 Big Ten quarterfinal matchup against Maryland, his ejection is now being used as a baton against his character and a possible pretense to fire him. Until recently, ejecting Maryland was a commonplace visit, but Howard, who is stopped by his own aides, is starting to become too familiar.
Ultimately, Howard will serve a multi-game suspension from the Big Ten. Passion, fire and a little anger from the head coach of a blue chip program is required. This is not academia. Coaching and playing in front of 20,000 fans on national television tends to be the adrenaline, arousing strong emotions and making hasty, regrettable decisions. Howard’s hasty picks on Sunday aren’t worth evoking the ghosts of Woody Hayes hitting ClemsoNS Charlie Bauman. Michigan has denied the Fab Five for decades. They won’t throw Woody Hayes’ book at Howard because of this error of judgment, as ESPN’s Jay Williams suggested.
The only longest lasting damage of this is Howard’s and Gard’s humiliation of the handshake line. It’s an overly genteel tradition, but somehow its existence has become a point of contention among college hoops commentary. The Twitter wars being waged over the future of the postgame handshake line are making Sunday afternoons a good-natured look. The post-game handshake line may survive COVID, but it remains to be seen if it can survive Sunday’s violation of basketball etiquette. If I were a gambler, I would imagine Howard will be back in the post-game handshake lines before the end of this season.