Michigan's Juwan Howard: Late Wisconsin timeout led to altercation
MADISON — A deflating defeat turned into a chaotic scene at the Kohl Center where Michigan coach Juwan Howard was at the center of a postgame dustup.
The cause of it all: a late timeout.
Wisconsin coach Greg Gard took one in the final seconds Sunday, Feb. 20, when the outcome was decided, and Howard didn't appreciate it. Howard made that known in the postgame handshake line when he got into a heated exchange with Gard and took a swing at Wisconsin assistant Joe Krabbenhoft following the 77-63 loss.
What unfolded from there was an ugly scene with shouting, shoving, and thrown punches that will certainly result in suspensions.
After the game, Howard said he took exception to Wisconsin's late timeout usage, particularly the one Gard took with 15 seconds left when the Badgers were up by 15 points.
"I didn't like the timeout being called, to be totally honest," said Howard, who didn't apologize for his actions during his postgame news conference that lasted over five minutes. "I thought it was not necessary at that moment, especially being a large lead."
Before that stoppage, Wisconsin had struggled to get ball across half court against Michigan. The Wolverines still had two starters in the game and were playing what Howard called man-to-man pressure defense.
After a Michigan defender deflected the ball out of bounds, a referee reminded Gard that his team would get the full 10 seconds to advance the ball past half court if he took a timeout, which he opted to do since he had five little-used backups in the game.
"I was not going to put them in a position ... to have to break a press in four seconds when they're coming cold off the bench," Gard explained. "I took a timeout, which I'm allowed to do, and brought them over and tried to get them organized. They haven't all been on the floor in pressure situations before and I wanted to give them the best chance to have success coming up the floor.
"All we're doing is getting the ball, break the pressure, come up, and we'll dribble out the clock. We got the full 10 seconds to break that press instead of four seconds. We were on spot, we got organized, and that is the situation that he apparently was upset with."
Wisconsin got the ball past half court, was fouled and made one of two free throws. Michigan went down, missed a 3-point attempt and scored on a putback with one second left. After Wisconsin inbounded the ball and the final buzzer sounded, chaos ensued.
As Howard went through the handshake line behind several of his players and coaches, he pulled down his mask and told Gard, "I'll remember that," referring to the timeout, and tried to keep moving on.
Gard said he wanted to explain the reasoning for the timeout to Howard in case he didn't know about the 10-second reset rule, but noted Howard "didn't want any part of it." During the exchange, Gard grabbed Howard's arm to keep him from walking past and Howard didn't take kindly to that.
"I think that was very uncalled for him to touch me as we were verbalizing and communicating with one another," said Howard, who reacted by putting his hand on Gard's chest and pointing a finger in his face. "That's what ended up happening. That's what escalated it."
Howard added he felt the contact was "unnecessary" and went beyond what typically happens during postgame handshakes.
"There wasn't cause for that when we're talking," he said. "At that point, I thought that was time to protect myself."
Howard and Gard continued to exchange words and after some jostling between the two sides, Howard reached out and hit the Wisconsin assistant, Krabbenhoft, in the head as tempers flared. That triggered a fracas where players from both sides appeared to throw punches, including Michigan's Moussa Diabate and Terrance Williams II and Wisconsin's Jahcobi Neath, before the teams were separated.
Wisconsin athletic director Chris McIntosh said he contacted Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren about the situation and noted the Badgers had staff members who were "affected and injured."
"There's no room, there's no space for conduct like that in any competition, much less Big Ten competition," said McIntosh, who joined Gard at the postgame news conference. "The Big Ten takes pride in sportsmanship. The Big Ten takes pride in acting with class. That didn't happen today.
"It's unfortunate what transpired. I expect the league is going to act swiftly and aggressively. ... We did not instigate this event and it's clearly captured on the television feed."
Gard, Howard and several players from both teams said there was nothing building up during the game that led to the postgame incident. Sophomore center Hunter Dickinson said there was frustration with the way Wisconsin handled the ending of the game and slowed it down by taking two timeouts in the final 50 seconds.
Roughly 90 minutes after the contest, the Big Ten released a statement saying that it was looking into the physical altercation involving Howard.
"The conference is in contact with both member institutions and is currently assessing the incident," the statement read. "The conference will provide more information and will take swift and appropriate disciplinary action when it completes its review."
Howard said he would respect whatever punishment comes down from the Big Ten. According to the conference's sportsmanship policy, the league office is limited to a two-game suspension and a $10,000 fine. It's possible the Big Ten and Michigan could jointly issue a penalty, with Michigan adding its own sanctions.
Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel released a statement saying he and president Mary Sue Coleman reached out and apologized to McIntosh and Wisconsin chancellor Rebecca Blank for the "totally unacceptable behavior."
"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," Manuel said in the statement.
"We will review the situation more thoroughly and work with the Big Ten conference as they determine their disciplinary actions and will determine if further disciplinary actions are warranted."
This isn't the first time Howard has gotten into it with another Big Ten coach. During a Big Ten tournament quarterfinal last season, Howard was ejected in the second half when he got into a fiery argument with then-Maryland coach Mark Turgeon and had to be restrained by several coaches.
Michigan also had a postgame dustup earlier this season at Rutgers when Diabate had to be held back by teammates in the handshake line.
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