What started out as gamesmanship in the final seconds of Wisconsin’s 77-63 victory against Michigan basketball turned chaotic in the handshake line between Michigan coach Juwan Howard and members of the Wisconsin coaching staff.
After a made basket, Michigan pressed the Wisconsin offense, forcing the Badgers to inbound the basketball a second time with 15 seconds left. Before the inbound, Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard called a 30-second timeout.
Upon returning from a timeout, the Wolverines fouled a Wisconsin player, delaying the game even more.
As the clock ran out, Juwan Howard went to the back of Michigan’s handshake, rather than leading the way per usual.
As Howard was breezing through the line, not locking eyes with Gard, the Wisconsin coach put his hand on Howard’s chest and stopped his progress. Howard then backed up and put his hand on Gard’s chest, grabbing his pullover. By that point, fingers were being pointed and Michigan players flooded in.
Howard and Gard continued to exchange words as Wisconsin coaches arrived, and after some jostling, Howard reached out and hit Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft with what appeared to be an open hand. Just before Howard landed the strike, Michigan players appeared to grow very angry.
From there, things got out of hand.
Players and coaches pushed and shoved. CBS’ broadcast showed Michigan’s Terrance Williams II and Moussa Diabate throw punches at members of the Wisconsin team. After more pushing and shoving, both teams went to the locker room as the chants of “N-I-T….N-I-T” rang out from an enraged crowd.
Wisconsin athletics director Chris McIntosh said he put in a call to Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren after the incident.
“There is no room, no space for conduct like that at any competition, much less Big Ten competition,” McIntosh said forcefully from the Kohl Center media room. “The Big Ten takes pride in sportsmanship. The Big Ten takes pride in acting with class and that didn’t happen today.
“And it’s unfortunate. I expect the league is going to act swiftly and aggressively.”
The Big Ten said in a statement: “The Big Ten Conference is aware of a physical altercation involving Michigan Head Coach Juwan Howard at the conclusion of the Michigan Wolverines and Wisconsin Badgers men’s basketball game. The conference is in contact with both member institutions and is currently assessing the incident. The conference will provide more information and will take swift and appropriate disciplinary action when it completes its review.”
Michigan athletics director Warde Manuel said he apologized to Wisconsin officials “for the totally unacceptable behavior” and that the school would review the incident “more thoroughly.”
Gard explained that he took the timeout because an official had told him by doing so Wisconsin would get a full 10 seconds to get the ball across half-court. The Badgers had just four seconds left to get the ball across half-court.
“I was not going to put them in a position, when the ball had already been knocked out of bounds, to have to break a press in four seconds when they’re coming in cold off the bench,” Gard said. “So I took a timeout, which I’m allowed to do, and brought them over to get them organized.”
In the postgame news conference, Howard explained what happened from his point of view.
“I addressed with the head coach that I will remember that, because of that timeout,” he said. “I think that was very uncalled for for him to touch me as we were communicating with one another. That is what escalated it.”
Howard took off his mask while approaching Gard and shared his displeasure with the late timeout. Gard responded by putting his left hand on Howard’s right elbow and beginning to explain why he took the timeout.
“We were going down the line and we were all fine,” Gard explained. “He came up to me and pulled his mask down and said: ‘I’ll remember that.’
“He started pointing at me and tapped me in the chest. I said: ‘Hold on. Let me explain to you why I took the timeout.’
“Maybe he doesn’t know the rule that you get the 10 seconds reset. I wasn’t going to put my player in that type of situation, to have to break a press in four seconds.”
Sunday afternoon’s fracas wasn’t the first altercation between Howard and another head coach. Howard and then-Maryland coach Mark Turgeon had a heated argument on the sideline during the teams’ Big Ten tournament game last season.
The two had to be separated by players and assistant coaches, and Howard was ejected in the second half of an eventual Michigan win.
Contributing: Jeff Potrykus, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: Juwan Howard strikes Wisconsin assistant after Michigan loss