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Juwan Howard Loses It At Wisconsin. What Now?

The Fab Five continues to age poorly.

NCAA Basketball: Ohio State at Michigan
Feb 12, 2022; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Juwan Howard reacts to a call in the second half against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Crisler Center.
Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s face it: the season has been a leeeetle bit boring. Not terribly. The sport isn’t broken or anything like that. But it has been a bit dull in spots. Apparently word got out to the Midwest, Big Ten Country to be specific, and Michigan and Wisconsin obliged us by making things a bit spicier.

Specifically, and unexpectedly, the coaches did it.

To set the scene...Wisconsin was going to win and Greg Gard called a timeout with :15 left on the clock. It was his second with under 1:00 left. He apparently called it because he had his reserves in - the guys who never get in - and Howard decided to press them. So he wanted to reset the :10 second clock to avoid the inevitable turnover.

In the handshake line, Howard was apparently going to snub Gard and just pass him by, But Gard grabbed his arm. The best video we’ve seen was on BarStool Sports - and you must admit, BarStool founder Dave Portnoy - by coincidence a UM grad - knows a thing or two about videos. By the way, if you’re working at home and no kids around you can watch this. if you’re in the office, you might want to wait (that goes for reading it too).

But we digress.

After Gard, for lack of a better description, stopped Howard’s departure, Howard said “don’t you effin’ touch me!” And grabbed Gard’s sweater, then pointed a finger in his face. Gard had a few things to say back then sort of slid left....and assistant Joe Krabbenhoft stepped in and while we don’t know if he said anything he appeared to push two Michigan players. And that’s when Howard went after Krabbenhoft.

The TV guys said Howard “just threw a right hand!” Which was not entirely accurate. He did semi-slap Krabbenhoft - which, by the way, means Crab Head - but it was clearly with an open hand. It looked worse than it was because he did immediately make a fist after slapping - that’s the closest word we have but maybe those clever Germans also have a name for whatever he did. If not, we nominate schwacher Arschkopfschlag! Because for the most part, if you don’t want to get beat up? Pick a fight with a basketball player, present or former. Howard showed exactly how basketball players usually fight: schwacher Arschkopfschlag then schnell verstecken!

Okay, that scene’s pretty much set. Let’s continue, but first, can we point something out?

This would probably not have happened had the coaches been professionally dressed, or at least not in the same way. Partly it’s because wearing a necktie and having your shirt tucked in isn’t the most comfortable thing in the world and with a belt, and a pair of shoes that are slick on the bottom - none of that is conducive to brawling.

You know what is?

Track suits and sneakers. Those are just made for brawling.

We’ll come back to the office life in a bit.

There’s plenty of blame to go around here. Gard should never have put his hands on Howard. And once Howard put his finger under Gard’s nose, he was issuing an invitation to get hit. Gard is a foot or so shorter, and presumably not stupid, but if this had been someone more volatile - like, say, Mark Turgeon or Fran McCaffrey - Howard might have had a fist in his teeth.

For his part, Crab Head should never have touched the Michigan players. As bad as it all was, that may have been the stupidest part. He’s not a brawling, muscle boy Badger anymore. He’s a grown-ass man and a coach. Like the other coaches involved, he’s supposed to calm things down, not enflame them.

But he did his part to fan the flames.

That said, no one made Howard strike him. And open-handed or not, provoked or not, he unquestionably struck Krabbenhoft.

And while the line about proper business attire was in one sense a joke, even though it’s true, it does bring up a basic, often dreaded work reality: HR.

Just ask yourself this question: in what work environment, at what university, in what department, can you strike a colleague and not face painful consequences?

This is an issue right now at Georgia, where assistant coach Wade Mason came to blows with director of player development Brian Fish during halftime of Wednesday night’s trip to LSU: there are rumors that Georgia could fire Crean because he didn’t report this to HR.

Aside from that, while it would be kind of silly for tough guy Krabbenhoft, he could absolutely file charges against against Howard or even a lawsuit against the coach and university. And it’d be in Wisconsin, so he’d almost certainly win.

But back to the point. All three of these guys are in trouble. Immediately after Howard slapped Crab Head in the head, players started brawling (last year this would have been the biggest Wake Forest news all season: former Demon Deacon Jahcobi Neath started swinging at Michigan’s Terrance Williams II. Back to schwacher Arschkopfschlag).

You simply cannot allow this with players and absolutely, positively not with coaches. They’re supposed to prevent this sort of thing, not instigate it. It is clearly a fireable offense although that doesn't mean Howard is going to get fired.

After the game, Michigan AD Warde Emmanuel, like Howard a Michigan man through and through, said this: “I am aware of and watched the end of our men’s basketball game. There is no excuse for any of our staff or student-athletes to get into a physical altercation with others regardless of instigating factors.”

Insigating factors? That’s pretty lame. How about just....period?

The Wisconsin AD, Chris McIntosh, said this: “There’s no space for conduct like that, at any competition, much less Big Ten competition. The Big Ten takes pride in sportsmanship. The Big Ten takes pride in acting with class. And it didn’t happen today. It’s unfortunate that transpired. I’ve been in contact with the league. I’ve spoken to the commissioner personally. I expect the league is going to act swiftly and aggressively. We’ve got staff that have been affected and injured in the face. It’s difficult for me to compose myself in the defense of our staff and our team who did not instigate this event.”

He went to say that “Coach Gard hasn’t had a chance to see the video footage, I have. I think the footage speaks for itself. And I think it speaks in Greg’s favor.”

You’ll notice that both ADs subtly blamed the other school for “instigating” things. Who got injured in the face? Surely not Crab Head.

Naturally this hit the Big Ten Commissioner’s desk very quickly and that’s going to be interesting.

No one we’re aware of has accused Kevin Warren of being a strong leader. Remember how he wavered about football during the Covid season? The clear impression, fair or not, was that he was bullied into changing his stance, notably by Ohio State.

This is not nearly as challenging. For one thing it doesn’t involve canceling or postponing football, which in Big Ten country made him the cornfed athletic version of Dr. Kevorkian, only worse.

But he’s going to have to drop the hammer. Certainly on Howard, who will probably get a substantial suspension, we’d think on Krabbenhoft as well, and most likely Gard too.

Why? And why worse for Howard, aside from the obvious?

Because any of these coaches, alleged molders of callow young men, could have calmed things down. Gard didn’t have to grab Howard. Howard didn’t have to lose his cool. And Crab Head could have just pulled his players back instead instead of showing them how to get in real trouble.

But Howard’s going to get it, if not from Michigan, then the Big Ten, and he deserves it.

Why? Because he has a track record.

Last season, you may recall, he got ejected from the Maryland game for an encounter with then-coach Mark Turgeon (Turgeon said it was the third time and he wasn’t going to take it anymore).

As he did at Wisconsin during the final timeout, at Maryland Howard spent most of a TO staring at the Terp’s bench before calling out Turgeon, who later said he’d just had enough of Howard’s behavior. That incident came when the cameras were off but it could have easily escalated into what we saw Sunday.

So keep in mind that Warren has already been ripped for weakness over Covid and football. Keep in mind also the bizarre history the Big Ten had with Bob Knight, who managed to have his way with the league for years despite a long history of outrageous behavior.

He’s been gone for years now but the memories of a purple-faced Knight haranguing people, cursing at teenagers, kicking at his own son on the bench, throwing a chair on the bench and finally simply abusing his own players...the Big Ten can’t afford to ever allow another coach that much leeway.

And Warren can't afford to be called weak again. In fact, it won’t surprise us if he takes the opportunity to repair that and maybe goes a bit too far in the other direction. Because if he comes out with some schwacher Arschkopfschlag of his own he’s really going to screw himself.

Finally, whatever anyone and everyone ultimately decides, if Howard doesn’t get fired, we hope HR insists on some anger management courses. It’d be tragic to watch him destroy his team and career. Too many people who know him speak well of him to think he should be defined by Sunday. If he keeps acting this way though, something like that is bound to happen again.