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22 Feb, 2022 11:41

Ex-NBA star suspended after slapping rival coach (VIDEO)

Juwan Howard was fined $40,000 and will miss the rest of the season
Ex-NBA star suspended after slapping rival coach (VIDEO)

Michigan basketball coach Juwan Howard has been suspended for five games and hit with a $40,000 fine for striking his opposite number's assistant in the face during a college game on Sunday. 

Former NBA professional Howard will now miss the rest of the season due to the incident following Sunday's Big Team meeting with Wisconsin, which saw him lash out at their assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft.

Though Krabbenhoft is expected to evade punishment, Wisconsin coach Greg Gard received a $10,000 fine for violating the conference's sportsmanship policy but wasn't suspended.

As for the players, Michigan's forwards Terrance Williams and Moussa Diabate, plus Wisconsin guard Jahcobi Neath, have all been suspended for one game each after appearing to throw punches in the heated confrontation.

"Big Ten Conference coaches and student-athletes are expected to display the highest level of sportsmanship conduct," stated the conference's commissioner Kevin Warren, who was "grateful for the partnership with Michigan athletics director, Warde Manuel, and Wisconsin athletics director, Chris McIntosh."

"Our expectation is that the incident yesterday will provide our coaches and student-athletes with the opportunity to reflect, learn and move forward in a manner that demonstrates decorum and leadership on and off of the court," Warren added on Monday. 

Ex-Washington Wizards power forward Howard said that "after taking time to reflect on all that happened, I realize how unacceptable both my actions and words were, and how they affected so many". "I am truly sorry," Howard groveled in his own statement.

"I am offering my sincerest apology to my players and their families, my staff, my family and the Michigan fans around the world. I would like to personally apologize to Wisconsin's Assistant Coach Joe Krabbenhoft and his family, too.

"Lastly, I speak a lot about being a Michigan man and representing the University of Michigan with class and pride, I did not do that, nor did I set the right example in the right way for my student-athletes. I will learn from my mistake and this mistake will never happen again. No excuses!" Howard concluded.

In a separate statement from Michigan, Manuel said that "today's disciplinary actions underscore the seriousness with which we take the incident that unfolded on Sunday".

"Simply put, there is no room at U-M for the behavior we saw. We will learn from this incident as a department, work to improve ourselves while operating under a spotlight, and move forward in a positive light."

The incident was sparked during the last minute of home team Wisconsin's 77-63 win when Gard substituted his walk-ons into the action.

Michigan were pressing full-court with their regulars still in the action, which prompted Gard to call a timeout to get his team settled and give them a chance to get past half court without suffering a turnover. 

In the moments after the final buzzer, Gard grabbed Howard's arm in an attempt to talk to him. The two men shared words, but Howard put his finger in Gard's face and grabbed Gard's shirt before several players and coaches surrounded the pair. As Krabbenhoft came over to the middle of the group and argued with Howard, Howard then hit Krabbenhoft in the face.

"I didn't like the timeout they called, and I'm being totally honest with you," Howard confessed. "I thought it was not necessary at that moment, especially with it being a large lead... I thought that wasn't fair to our guys. And so that's what happened."

Howard also said that someone from the Wisconsin camp made contact with him, though he didn't specify who.

"Someone touched me, and I think it was very uncalled for, for them to touch me, as we were verbalizing and communicating with one another. That's what escalated it," Howard claimed.

Gard explained his logic behind his timeouts, and in particular the one when there were just 15 seconds remaining, in his postgame interview.

"Apparently, he didn't like that I called the timeout to reset the 10-second call. Because we only had four seconds to get the ball over half court," Gard said.

"I didn't want to put my backups – I had all my bench guys in the game – I didn't want to put them in that position of scrambling with only four seconds. So I took a timeout and got us a new 10 seconds, and it helped them get organized and get the ball in. And he did not like that when he came through the handshake line. I'll leave it at that, and the tape will show the rest," Gard finished.

As both teams started pushing and shoving one another, the suspended players seemed to throw punches with McIntosh also condemning the debacle in Wisconsin's statement.

"Needless to say, there is no place in college athletics for what happened at the end of Sunday's game," McIntosh stressed. "Neither Coach Gard nor his staff had any intent to provoke or incite any of what took place. I want to commend those on our staff – and student-athletes – who were trying to de-escalate the situation.

"Our staff has my complete support, as do our student-athletes. I consider the $10,000 fine from the Big Ten to be a 'Wisconsin fine' and not a 'Greg Gard fine.' Wisconsin Athletics will assume the responsibility for paying the fine," McIntosh revealed.

Without their coach, Howard, Michigan have four straight home games before they play away at Ohio State in the last game of the season. Nursing a 14-11 overall record and an 8-7 record in the Big Ten, Michigan might be taken over by associate head coach Phil Martelli who led them when Howard was ejected during last year's Big Ten tournament.

Drafted in 1994 by the Wizards, Howard was an All-Star in 1996 and passed through a number of franchises before finding his greatest success with the Miami Heat.

Finishing his career there in 2013 after back-to-back NBA championships from 2012 onwards, he then served as the Heat's assistant coach before taking over head coach duties in Michigan where he has been since 2019.