Michigan basketball coach Juwan Howard is Michigan through and through, but yesterday’s altercation seriously jeopardizes his future with the collegiate basketball program he helped make notorious. Currently, the Michigan Wolverines sit at 14-11, but this one loss will be felt for some time.
Like every sport, losing happens in basketball. And also like every sport, there are rules – and there are unwritten rules. Howard believed Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard broke a fundamental staple of sportsmanship.
At the end of a second-half game that was being dominated by the opposing Wisconsin Badgers, a timeout was taken by head coach Gard – a big no-no in basketball’s unwritten rules.
Gard claims he did it for strategic reasons, to give his team an opportunity to advance the ball without being pressed. However, with Michigan’s team down 15 points with only 22 seconds left to play, Howard saw it completely opposite.
When keeping it real goes wrong…
Taking a timeout to savor the victory didn’t sit well with Howard, who was reluctant to even enter the hand-shake line immediately after the game.
Howard eventually entered the end of the line and tried to walk past Gard, who impeded his progress by grabbing his arm. When confronted, Howard said several times “I’ll remember that” and if Greg Gard had more Black friends, he would’ve known things were about to go left. Left hand as a matter of fact.
Noticing their boiling tensions, both team players and staff intervened to separate them. Yet Howard open palm slapped Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft, who caught a stray on the cheek.
The slap ignited both sides to go full on knuck-if-you-buck. Mayhem ensued for a brief moment, punches were thrown and people were pushed. Yet, all in all, everyone left intact. Everyone except Juwan Howard that is.
Coaches get slapped every day B.
At the post-game press conference, Gard explained, “maybe he doesn’t know the rule, that you get the ten seconds to reset.” After insulting Howard’s intelligence, Gard stated Howard, one of Michigan’s legendary Fab 5, dismissed his sincere explanation entirely.
While the merits of Gard’s conversation can be debated, Juwan Howard’s actions cannot. The Michigan basketball coach went too far.
By striking a fellow coach (that didn’t even call the timeout) Howard will surely be punished to set an example. Considering the University of Michigan already erased the Fab 5 legacy for receiving financial payments in 2001, Juwan Howard is now at risk of essentially being fired twice from the same job.
Juwan Howard forgot where he was.
At his own post-game interview, Howard clarified, “I didn’t like the time out, I’ll be totally honest with you.”
Given Wisconsin’s lead at timeout, Gard behaved in a way that “was unfair to our guys” according to Howard.
While an argument can be made for both sides, Howard’s actions undermine any explanation he could possibly offer. To coach is to lead. Howard’s ‘leadership’ at that moment could wind up toppling his career trajectory in the same way ‘Malice in the Palace‘ did for those NBA players involved.
It’s often said that sports are a microcosm of society. Though far from fair, Black coaches are judged at a different standard and the smallest chink in your armor can and will be used against them. For Juwan Howard, he may have just sealed his own fate.