Juwan Howard, who is Black, gets a five-game suspension and a $40,000 fine for hitting a Wisconsin assistant. Badgers head coach Greg Gard, who is white, grabbed Howard’s arm as Howard tried to leave the court, an act that set the near-brawl in motion. He’s fined $10,000, but no suspension.
The brouhaha between the University of Michigan and Wisconsin men’s basketball teams over the weekend should have never happened.
Michigan head coach Juwan Howard, suspended five games by the Big Ten and fined $40,000, should have never taken a swipe that connected with Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft. And Wisconsin coach Greg Gard, fined $10,000 by the conference for his role in the incident, should have never put Howard in a position where throwing hands became an option.
Lost in the kerfuffle was the fact that there was no physical contact made until Gard grabbed Howard’s arm to try and talk to him, at a time when it was pretty clear Howard was in no mood to have a conversation.
Howard was upset at Gard for calling a time-out with Wisconsin leading by double digits, and only a few ticks left on the game clock. Still upset as players and coaches from both teams shook hands after the game, Howard didn’t want to deal with Gard at all.
Gard had another plan in mind after Howard, lifting his mask as he tried to walk past Gard, told him, “I’ll remember that shit!” Gard wanted to talk to a visibly upset Howard, on his terms, right there. So Gard put his hands on Howard to get his attention and keep him from walking away which led to Howard telling him at least half a dozen times to not touch him.
Words were exchanged, coaches and players got involved and within seconds, Howard connected with a Badgers assistant and it became the talk of college basketball.
I’m not here to try and justify what Howard did.
He was wrong for what he did, and later released a statement indicating this.
And yet Gard and Wisconsin officials act as if he had nothing to do with this escalating, with Wisconsin athletics director Chris McIntosh going to so far as to release a statement that read in part that the Badgers coaching staff did not have, “any intent to provoke or incite any of what took place.”
They may not see this as an issue involving race, but it’s hard to not see race as a factor when you consider Gard who is white, was the first to make this about more than just talk when he grabbed Howard’s arm, got a small fine while all those suspended, coaches and players, are Black.
The blame pie that Gard is getting in all of this, isn’t nearly big enough. It’s even more ludicrous when you consider his post-game comments on the incident.
“He (Howard) came up to me and pulled his mask down and said, ‘I’ll remember that’ and he started pointing at me, tapping me in the chest,” Gard said in his post-game press conference.
What Gard neglected to mention was how he initially grabbed Howard’s arm, which then led to Howard pointing in his chest and telling him to not touch him anymore and ... y’all seen the video by now.
The omission of this detail on Gard’s part is a big deal considering that specific detail that he completely ignored when asked about the incident after the game, was what elevated an upset coach (Howard) who may have been in his feelings after a bad loss, into one who was ready to start putting some hands on folks.
Again, no one is making an excuse for how Howard responded. What he did was wrong.
But a closer look at what happened reveals a level of thought on Gard’s part that raises lots of questions that fall into the "necessary but uncomfortable conversations that need to be had" category.
What made Gard feel so comfortable that he felt grabbing Howard was OK at that moment?
I don’t know much about Gard’s upbringing, but if a grown-ass man tells you to keep your hands off him and you continue to try and talk to him while using your hands to prevent him from passing by, there’s a good chance that bad things are going to happen to you or those around you.
But there was something in Gard’s head that made him feel as though doing that was OK, and that Howard would listen to him because, well, Gard wasn’t going to let him walk past without being heard.
It’s hard to tell if Gard’s arrogance was on a level to where he felt he could say and do whatever he wanted to at that moment and Howard would have no choice but to listen; or whether Gard simply didn’t read the room and had no idea that Howard was capable of blowing up the way he did.
Regardless, Gard’s role in this was much bigger than the Big Ten or Wisconsin would lead one to believe; big enough to where it raises the kind of questions that only Gard knows the answer to.
Judging by what he said—and what he didn’t say—about this near-brawl moments after it happened, can you believe anything he says about this incident?