Michigan vs. Wisconsin fight: Did Wolverines coach Juwan Howard deserve his five-game suspension?

The sports world is buzzing with reaction to the postgame fight involving Michigan and Wisconsin on Sunday. On Monday, the Big Ten announced penalties for the brawl, including a five game suspension and $40,000 fine for Michigan coach Juwan Howard. In addition Wisconsin coach Greg Gard was fined $10,000 for violating the conference’s sportsmanship policy, but was not suspended.

The Big Ten also suspended three players one game for the altercation following the Badgers’ 77-63 win on Sunday with Michigan’s Moussa Diabate and Terrance Williams II, and Jahcobi Neath of Wisconsin sitting out their team’s next game

But is Howard’s punishment too much, not enough or about right for an incident that was highlighted by his open-handed strike on Wisconsin assistant Joe Krabbenhoft? Howard’s defenders would have you believe that he was the true victim — provoked by Greg Gard’s late timeout and by Gard’s attempt to stop Howard in the postgame handshake line. There’s also the uncertainty surrounding what Krabbenhoft may have said to provoke Howard.

But while it’s incumbent upon Michigan and the Big Ten to parse through the clutter and figure out exactly what happened, the raw video is unkind to Howard.

So, based on what we knew Monday morning, our writers weigh in for this edition of the Dribble Handoff:

Gary Parrish: Howard should be suspended, but not terminated 

Let’s define the baseline of punishment at suspension: I would imagine Greg Gard gets no suspension. The players who threw punches on video will face a suspension. And Juwan Howard’s going to face a suspension. I think it stops short of termination, although, there were plenty of people — even like legitimate media people — saying he should be terminated for what he did. I’ll stop short of that. I don’t like throwing around termination for one

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LeBron James’ one-game suspension for clocking Isaiah Stewart doesn’t seem in line with J.R. Smith precedent

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The NBA announced on Monday that LeBron James has been suspended one game without pay — which amounts to a $284K forfeiture — for “recklessly hitting [Isaiah] Stewart in the face, and initiating an on-court altercation.”

It was also announced that Stewart, who was left badly bloodied after his face took the business end of James’ closed fist, has been suspended two games without pay for “escalating an on-court altercation by repeatedly and aggressively pursuing [LeBron James] in an unsportsmanlike manner.” 

Though understandable after the shot he took, Stewart lost his mind. This was not a typical “hold me back” NBA fight. Stewart was after LeBron like a madman. The scene was ugly and easily could’ve gotten much uglier. Stewart deserves the two-game suspension he got. You just can’t do this on an NBA court:

LeBron, on the other hand, appears to have gotten off lightly with his one-game suspension as there is precedent for a harsher penalty in this case. Back in 2015, J.R. Smith was suspended two playoff games for a nearly identical hit on Jae Crowder, which you can see below. 

Now here’s the LeBron footage:

And a slightly different angle:

You can clearly see LeBron looking back at Stewart as he throws his fist. He knew what he was doing. Smith took a longer swipe, but it’s the same thing. Watch the clips again. Smith was peeved about Crowder’s initial contact as they tussled for rebounding position, just as LeBron was visibly irritated with Stewart’s contact, for which Stewart was assessed a loose-ball foul. 

Smith took a swing backward. LeBron took a swing backward. 

Smith hit crowder in the face. LeBron hit Stewart in the face. 

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