Michigan Wolverines coach Juwan Howard was suspended for the remainder of the regular season (five games) on Monday night, a punishment handed down after the coach struck Wisconsin assistant Joe Krabbenhoft in the handshake line following the Badgers' 77-63 win on Sunday afternoon.
Michigan players Terrance Williams II and Moussa Diabate and Wisconsin guard Jahcobi Neath were all suspended one game each for their role in the postgame brawl. Howard was also fined $40,000 for the incident, while Wisconsin coach Greg Gard was fined $10,000.
ESPN's college basketball team of Myron Medcalf, Jeff Borzello and John Gasaway weighed in on the appropriateness of the punishment, the way forward for Michigan and for Howard following the ugly incident captured on Sunday afternoon network television and the necessary next steps for college basketball.
Did you think the punishment handed down following Sunday's brawl was appropriate? What are the implications of this episode for college basketball?
Medcalf: The penalty for Howard makes sense -- I figured we wouldn't see him until the postseason. We have not seen many -- any? -- situations like that in college basketball. I also think the suspension might have been extended because of Howard's reaction after the game. In the postgame news conference, Howard missed his chance to say "my bad," and that probably cost him with league and school officials. I also would not have been surprised if Greg Gard had been suspended for a game. When watching the video, you can see Gard aggressively grab Howard as Howard says, "Don't touch me."
I also don't think any players should have been suspended. Once the coaches lose their collective cool, it's difficult for me to place the burden on the shoulders of student-athletes for whatever comes next. But a punch is a punch, and that's why we're mostly talking about Howard's actions. This all unfolded on national network TV on the first non-NFL Sunday of 2022. And that's what hurts the sport. Instead of talking about Kentucky and Arizona and Auburn's pros and cons or Johnny Davis vs. Oscar Tshiebwe in the Wooden Award race, Sunday's postgame incident is the No. 1 story in our sport. And when Howard returns, in time for the Big Ten tournament, every story about college basketball will center on him. It's not good for anyone involved. What a mess, weeks before the greatest event in sports begins.
Borzello: The penalty is appropriate. When canvassing sources around the sport on Sunday night, most seemed to think anywhere from the rest of the regular season to the regular season and postseason would be the range for Howard's punishment. Nobody thought firing him should truly be on the table. I felt five games would make the most sense. If the Wolverines had just three games left, I could have seen the league and school adding the Big Ten tournament on top of the regular season. But five games certainly seems appropriate, when considering Howard has some history with coach confrontations. I thought Gard might get a game, because as Myron notes, he wasn't blameless, but I don't think zero games is inappropriate. The players who were suspended threw punches; that's essentially a no-brainer in terms of suspensions.
If the biggest implication for college basketball is reassessing the mandatory handshake line, I'm all-in for that. We survived last season just fine when the handshake line disappeared due to COVID-19, and I think the sport would thrive without it. Do it like the NBA -- wave and retreat to your locker rooms. There's plenty of time before and after games to hug, exchange pleasantries, catch up, etc. You don't need a handshake line to do it.
Gasaway: Yes, the penalty's appropriate. Missing five games in February and March when your team is playing for a tournament bid is a serious blow. One implication for college basketball is that every coach has now seen an instance in which a disagreement over "the unwritten rules" resulted in a physical altercation. We've all seen coaches brush past each other in the handshake line, glower at each other or even have heated discussions because of a late timeout or dunk in a blowout. Coaches are highly sensitive to those perceived slights, and a certain segment of fans loves to debate the nuances of proper basketball etiquette in garbage time. Understood, but this time it got physical. Maybe the NABC can pass a resolution as a reminder of handshake line common sense. Shake hands, frown if you wish, agree to disagree and walk away.
How does Juwan Howard come back from this, from a reputation standpoint?
Borzello: Howard not apologizing on Sunday night was a misstep on his part, but doing so on Monday night was a step in the right direction. Unless this becomes a regular occurrence in Howard's career, though, it will eventually be forgotten or at least overshadowed. Granted, he had the run-in with Mark Turgeon at the Big Ten tournament and now this, but he didn't have an erratic reputation in his playing days, so I doubt it will be something that pops up every season. Assuming he continues to win like he has and recruit like he has, people will focus far more on the on-court successes. Sunday night's incident will undoubtedly be a major talking point for the foreseeable future, though, and he's going to have a spotlight on him moving forward.
Gasaway: Howard can come back from this through wins and staying away from anything that even faintly resembles what took place in Madison. There's certainly no prohibition on demonstrative or even downright angry coaches in Division I. Michigan's coach can occupy that space along with his more volatile colleagues without ever crossing the line again. If Howard can avoid five-game suspensions in the future, his record speaks for itself. His program earned a No. 1 seed in his second season, and he came within a 3-pointer of the Final Four. He brought in one of the nation's strongest recruiting classes in the fall of his third year. Clearly, the man can coach.
Medcalf: Well, we're talking about Rick Pitino possibly getting another Power 5 job, Will Wade still coaching after a "strong-ass offer" leaked and Bruce Pearl perhaps being national coach of the year. Reputations can be repaired. Clearly. It helps that Howard is coaching at a school where he was once a star. He'll be protected from the backlash in ways another coach without those ties might not be. This isn't that difficult to decipher. If Howard wins and succeeds, this will eventually be something that no longer matters for him or his career. He apologized long before his first news conference at the Big Ten tournament and I assume he will say the right things when he returns. The fear has to be, however, that athletic director Warde Manuel has certainly given him the "never again" speech. And now, people are going to watch him differently. In this sport, however, winning makes bad days disappear. The same can happen for Howard.
What are the basketball implications of the suspensions? What do you expect Michigan to be playing for when Howard returns to the sideline?
Gasaway: Moussa Diabate and Terrance Williams II were both suspended for one game, and that means they'll miss a home date with Rutgers. That's an important game for Michigan, and the Wolverines close at home with Illinois, Michigan State and Iowa before going to Ohio State. The remarkable aspect of all of this is that at the moment UM is very likely right on the cut line for the field of 68. The stakes don't get any larger. We've seen teams draw together when playing for an acting coach, and maybe that will be the case here with the Wolverines and Phil Martelli. It's that first game where the suspensions are being served that I want to see. That's when all of this will still feel strange and new, and Michigan could really use that win against the Scarlet Knights.
Medcalf: This is a big development for a team that's fighting to secure a spot in the NCAA tournament. In two of Michigan's past three games -- losses to Ohio State and Wisconsin -- the Wolverines did not look like an NCAA tournament team. And an upcoming stretch that includes a hot Rutgers squad, Illinois, Michigan State, a feisty Iowa team and Ohio State (in Columbus) could ruin any at-large hopes for this team that now has to move forward without its head coach. Ask Louisville what life is like for five or six games without your head coach. It can change everything. Michigan is 7-4 in its last 11 games. This is a talented squad even without Diabate and Williams. Two weeks ago, the Wolverines crushed Purdue, a legit national title contender. They can certainly pick up a few wins and solidify their résumé before Howard returns. But things might also fall apart and they could enter the Big Ten tournament in desperation mode.
Borzello: For a team right on the bubble, losing your head coach for five games, a starting forward for one game and a rotation piece for one game is not a positive. But Michigan has four home games before ending the season on the road at Ohio State -- so the schedule, from a location perspective, is favorable. The schedule, from a competition standpoint, is not favorable; all five remaining opponents are likely NCAA tournament teams. Diabate and Williams will miss Wednesday's game at Rutgers. Diabate had the best game of his college career last week against Iowa, going for 28 points and eight boards, while Williams has been the first frontcourt player off the bench. On the coaching front, having Phil Martelli -- an ultra-experienced head coach -- taking the reins should keep things relatively stable. Michigan has plenty of chances to improve its résumé in the next two weeks, and I think they get enough wins to have Howard back for what will essentially be a "win one game and get a bid" Big Ten tournament for the Wolverines.