By now, you’ve probably seen the video of Michigan basketball coach and former NBAer Juwan Howard getting into a postgame brawl with Wisconsin basketball staff after losing to the Badgers on Sunday afternoon. The clip’s low light unfolds as the 6-foot-9 Howard reaches a group of police officers, players and coaches and slaps Wisconsin assistant Joe Krabbenhoft on the head.
wow. Great college basketball coaches tackled after tough game in February? I’ve never seen anything like it… except what happened at the Mullins Center in Amherst 28 years ago.
Local sports fans of a certain age will certainly remember it. No actual punches were landed, but those who were there won’t forget hearing enraged Temple coach John Chaney shout “I’m going to kill you!” as he charged the UMass coach John Calipari.
“Do you remember that – when I see you I’ll kick your ass!” Chaney shouted as he was restrained by UMass player Mike Williams while Calipari stood on the podium after -match.
No one was 100% sure what triggered Chaney’s outburst. His team had just lost a close friend to the Minutemen and he was no doubt threatened by a burgeoning UMass program and its brash young coach. One of his assistants had also just told him that Calipari was working on the referee team after the UMass victory.
Temple’s president suspended Chaney for one game after the episode, but less than two weeks later the two men reunited at McGonigle Hall in Philadelphia. A fan was holding a sign that read “Get ready to rumble!” but there were smiles and handshakes all around before and after UMass’ 1-point victory.
There have been other difficult times between the coaches over the years. Bill Belichick’s postgame handshakes with former assistant Eric Mangini were Fredo-worthy, and baseball generals Billy Martin and Earl Weaver famously feuded throughout the 1970s. had a night in Baltimore where Martin compared little Weaver to a 3-foot-tall local circus performer and Weaver fired back with, “I’d rather be short than a mental dwarf!”
But he never came to blows with the Hoodie or the dugout rivals.
Red Auerbach was another story. Red didn’t back down from any man. At the age of 66, Auerbach challenged Moses Malone 6-10 to fight in a pre-season game at the Old Garden. Looking back, before Game 3 of the 1957 NBA Finals, Red’s St. Louis Hawks owner Ben Kerner in an argument over the height of the baskets in the Kiel Auditorium.
“When he took a half step towards me, I blew him up,” Red explained. “You always strike first.”
There was no suspension for the grumpy Boston legend. Auerbach was fined $300 by NBA President Maurice Podoloff, who said: “Throwing punches belongs to the Blackstone Valley League, not the NBA, but from what I know. hear, Auerbach had a certain provocation.”
wow. This was back when a cigar was just a cigar and a league commissioner gave a coach slack for throwing a punch before a playoff game.
It will be different for Juwan Howard in 2022.
Howard was remarkably calm when he met the media shortly after Sunday’s brawl. He explained that he was unhappy with Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard calling a timeout with 15 seconds left in a 15-point game. He made his objections clear in the handshake line and didn’t like Gard initiating contact (Gard appeared to grab Howard’s left elbow) in an attempt to discuss the matter.
“That’s what made it worse,” Howard said.
Sorry, that won’t be enough. Howard was suspended for the remainder of the regular season (five games) and fined $40,000. Gard was moored $10,000.
He has to be the adult in this situation, and Michigan can’t have their coach held off by Wolverine players while he hits a coach from the other team. Several players threw punches past Howard’s right roundhouse and three players were suspended.
Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said Sunday there was ‘no excuse’ for what happened, apologized to Wisconsin and is working with the Big Ten to determine the punishment for Howard.
Howard is 49 years old. He was one of Michigan’s famous “Fab Five”, played 18 seasons in the NBA and served as an assistant coach for the Heat from 2013 to 2019. This is his third season as head coach at Michigan. During last year’s Big Ten tournament, he got into an argument with Maryland coach Mark Turgeon and had to be restrained by assistants after being ejected.
It must be better. It’s not 1957. It’s not 1994. Howard can’t start fights at college basketball games.
Dan Shaughnessy is a columnist for The Globe. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @dan_shaughnessy.