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Michigan should fire Juwan Howard after his deplorable act

MIKE PRESTON
Baltimore Sun (TNS)
Michigan head coach Juwan Howard, center, reacts after being called for a technical foul during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Iowa, Thursday, Feb. 17, 2022, in Iowa City, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Head coaches should just coach their team and not worry about what is going on over on the opposing sideline or bench.

That’s age-old advice that University of Michigan basketball coach Juwan Howard should have heeded Sunday night as No. 15 Wisconsin defeated the visiting Wolverines, 77-63. Instead, Michigan officials should fire him after his involvement in a verbal altercation that turned physical with Wisconsin coach Greg Gard and one of his assistants and led to a brief brawl at midcourt during the postgame handshake line.

It’s difficult to say a coach should be fired because that person then loses his ability to support his family. But this incident was more than just about wins and losses. It’s about a coach who lost his temper and took an open-handed swing at Badgers assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft. It was deplorable, an act of violence where a coach allowed his emotions to overcome his passion. Order was restored fairly quickly, but it doesn’t take much in this divided country to turn a brief exchange into utter chaos.

It was a fireable offense.

Howard was upset that Gard called a timeout with 48 seconds left and his team ahead, 76-57. With 15 seconds remaining, Gard said he called another timeout to make sure backups could break the full-court press and get past half-court without avoiding the 10-second violation.

It’s understandable why Howard was upset. All coaches run into some knucklehead who wants to run up the score and embarrass you. Yet at the same time, the other coach might want to work on a particular play or a certain skill.

That’s why you just coach your team. In other words, control what you can control. Getting blown out is embarrassing. There is nothing more humiliating in high school or recreation ball than when you’re getting beat convincingly and the other team puts in someone who barely plays. He scores and his teammates and their fans go crazy.

What do you do? Do you go punch out the other coach, or maybe slap around the assistant?

If your team is playing poorly, then that’s on your team. If you can’t stop the other team from scoring, well, that’s a personal problem, too. Afterward, just get on the bus, shut up and go home.

Lots of blame to go around: There is plenty of blame to go around. When you watch the video, Howard is clearly agitated about what happened at the end of the game. While in the handshake line, Howard says something briefly when he walks up to Gard, but Gard puts his left hand on Howard to stop him and possibly explain to him why he called those timeouts.

That’s a no-no. You never put your hands on another coach when emotions are high. In some places, that’s a signal to fight and Howard said he had to “defend myself.” That’s understandable, just unacceptable. It’s unclear why Krabbenhoft got involved or why Howard tried to punch him.

But if the Big Ten Conference is going to hand out suspensions, Gard needs to stand in the front of the line. Players from both teams who exchanged punches should be suspended, too. As for Howard, he should be let go.

NFL coaches show restraint: The NFL runs on emotion and very seldom do you see coaches lose their tempers as Howard did Sunday. They will exchange words publicly like former Broncos coach Vic Fangio did during the season when Ravens coach John Harbaugh sent quarterback Lamar Jackson back out on the field late in the game to tie an obscure NFL record for consecutive 100-yard rushing games by a team.

And Harbaugh certainly wasn’t happy with Cincinnati coach Zac Taylor when the Bengals ran up the score on the Ravens twice during the regular season.

Harbaugh won’t forget, but he showed restraint. Most coaches, regardless of sport, do in those situations.

Howard couldn’t. I’ve never liked those “sportsmanship lines” except in high school or recreation sports. As a competitor, you just played hard and probably talked a little trash for three to four hours. There isn’t enough of a cool-down period when the games are over. In the NFL, those who want to pray go to midfield. If you want to go and shake someone’s hand, you find them and then go to the locker room.

Losing his cool and composure: Howard lost his cool and then his composure. That’s unacceptable in college athletics. It sounds kind of trite in these days of transfer portals, where student-athletes across the country have gained the right to make money from their names, images and likenesses. But college coaches are still supposed to teach their players life lessons, how to make sound decisions and help them become mature adults.

Obnoxious behavior is not one of them.

Unfortunately, this is the second incident involving Howard. Last March, he was given two technical fouls and ejected in a game after getting in a confrontation with then-Maryland coach Mark Turgeon at the Big Ten tournament.

There is an old saying that where there is smoke there is fire.

Howard is the fire that needs to be put out.