Following the brief postgame fight that broke out between the Michigan Wolverines and then No. 15 Wisconsin Badgers on Sunday in Madison, the Big Ten Conference and Michigan athletic department have announced that UM’s men’s basketball head coach Juwan Howard will be suspended for five games. That equates to the remainder of the regular season for Michigan’s team, including the rescheduled visit by the No. 24 Michigan State Spartans on March 1.
An update from the Big Ten Conference about the incident following Sunday’s Michigan/Wisconsin men’s basketball game. https://t.co/jiSGkHJpgC— Big Ten Conference (@bigten) February 22, 2022
The Big Ten announced late Monday that in the wake of the incident, two Michigan players, Terrance Williams II and Moussa Diabate, and one Wisconsin player, Jahcobi Neath, would be suspended for one game effective immediately. Those suspensions will result in Williams and Diabate missing Michigan’s game at home Wednesday against Rutgers, while Neath will miss Wisconsin’s trip to Minnesota on Wednesday night as well. Diabate earlier this season at Rutgers had to be visibly restrained by teammates following the Wolverines’ loss to Rutgers. No word came on what the cause was for that incident.
As for the coaching staff, Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard was fined $10,000 as he was deemed to be in violation of the conference’s sportsmanship policy. However, the stiffest punishment, understandably, came for Howard who was handed a five-game suspension and a $40,000 fine. Per the league’s bylaws, any suspension greater than two games goes through the Joint Group Executive Committee for approval. Michigan reached the decision in conjunction with Big Ten Commissioner Kevin Warren.
However, the official release from the University of Michigan also notes that before Howard can return to the sideline for the Big Ten Tournament, the athletic department and Big Ten officials will meet to discuss the matter and render a final decision.
In the meantime, Michigan will host Michigan State in Ann Arbor for a rescheduled matchup against the in-state rivals next week on Tuesday, March 1. The Wolverines will be led by associate head coach Phil Martelli for that matchup. Director of Basketball Operations Chris Hunter will have a temporary elevation to the third assistant coach position as well. The game originally scheduled in Ann Arbor for Jan. 8 was postponed due to a COVID-19 outbreak among the Michigan roster.
The initial start to what would devolve into a brief flurry of flying fists by players started in the closing moments of game action. Despite a double-digit deficit of 15 points and Wisconsin having subbed in most of its scout team, Howard left multiple starters on the floor and his team was running a high-pressure full-court press. In the ensuing effort by Wisconsin to get the ball over half-court following a Michigan basket with 0:22 seconds remaining, the ball was knocked out of bounds by Michigan and Wisconsin head coach Greg Gard called a timeout to get a fresh 10-seconds for his team to get the ball over the half-court line and dribble out the remaining seconds of the game. You can watch the full sequence of events and explanation of the rules in the Tweet below:
Coaches: Here’s my takeaways from @umichbball_ -@BadgerMBB . Judge for yourself but I know coaching 101: 1. It’s to hard to coach two teams at once. You coach yours, & I’ll coach mine. 2. If you are still pressing, I’m helping my team. 3. Know the rules. pic.twitter.com/5Oge7fpwnd— Fran Fraschilla (@franfraschilla) February 21, 2022
Despite his choice not to sub in bench players and call off the press, nevermind numerous instances of similar leads or deficits in which Howard himself has called a timeout this season, Michigan’s head coach was so visibly upset over the timeout call that he blew past Gard in the postgame handshake line while lifting his mask away from his face to tell Gard he would “remember” the timeout. This is where things go downhill and ended with Howard being suspended.
Gard reached out and grabbed Howard to stop him and try and explain the reason for the timeout, as it differs from NBA rules. Howard immediately got into Gard’s face about not wanting to be touched. In the ensuing chaos and hot tempers, Howard ended up stepping foward moments later and striking Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft in the head with an open palm. Multiple Michigan and Wisconsin players then got involved from there, throwing fists wildly, but it thankfully was quickly broken up before any further escalation.
You can watch the full video of the incident below, though please note it contains unedited profanity.
Here's really good raw video of the aftermath of #Michigan and #Wisconsin. You can clearly hear Juwan Howard say "I'll remember that" to Greg Gard prior to the altercation.— Jeanna Trotman (@JeannaTrotmanTV) February 20, 2022
(Video courtesy of WKOW. Caution unedited, NSFW language.) pic.twitter.com/27N2q1OD8I
This marks the second major incident in which Howard has interacted in a concerning manner with a head coach of a Big Ten program. Last year at the Big Ten Tournament, Howard reportedly made a verbal threat to kill then Maryland’s head men’s basketball coach Mark Turgeon.
Reports in the wake of the Maryland incident suggested that the Big Ten came close to suspending Howard for the team’s game against Illinois on that Saturday, but ultimately decided not to. Illinois went on to win the 2021 tournament title after being denied the regular season crown, or a share of it, due to Michigan’s reduced schedule giving the Wolverines a marginally better win percentage despite having fewer wins than the Illini.
Michigan next plays on Wednesday against Rutgers.