The Madison Punchslap

Chris Branch, writing The Athletic Pulse newsletter, outlines the mess at the end of the Wisconsin versus Michigan basketball game.

In the final minute of Wisconsin’s 77-63 win over Michigan on Sunday, Badgers coach Greg Gard called two timeouts with less than a minute to go, the last one coming with 15 seconds left. They were functionally unnecessary, though Gard said he wanted to give players more time to advance the ball against Michigan’s press defense.

The timeouts triggered a fracas that could change the makeup of the Michigan coaching staff. A full Pulse breakdown:

First, watch the video. You’ll notice the handshake line is proceeding as usual, until Michigan coach Juwan Howard tries to walk past Gard without shaking hands but tells Gard I’ll remember this.” Gard becomes angry at this, physically stepping in front of Howard to discuss their issues.

Howard was mad. He puts a finger in Gard’s face, yelling — ostensibly about that unnecessary timeout. A near-melee ensues, including Howard throwing a sort of open-hand punch/slap at Wisconsin assistant Joe Krabbenhoft. Players got involved and a couple of real punches were thrown. No one was injured, but it was an ugly scene.

Michigan and the Big Ten condemned the altercation. Suspensions are possible. Don’t be surprised if Howard faces a lengthy suspension or even termination. That feels harsh, but things aren’t great at Michigan right now. It might be a final-straw situation. 

The even-keeled takeaway: Two things can be true here. Gard probably shouldn’t have called that timeout. Take your win, head to the locker room and celebrate properly. No need to filibuster in front of your opponent after you’ve won handily. 

Howard probably should’ve given a begrudging handshake and gone home, stewing on the loss in the safe confines of his own locker room with no national TV cameras in sight.

First, he should be fired. If you or I did something similar we’d be fired immediately.

Second, I would bet the farm he won’t be fired.

Third, my gut says Howard is suspended for the rest of the season and the players are suspended for at least one game.

UPDATE: Exactly what I thought

February 21, 2022