University of California basketball head coach Mike Montgomery did not have one of his proudest moments at the helm of the Golden Bears on Sunday night. In a Pac-12 battle with the USC Trojans, Montgomery shoved leading scorer Allen Crabbe during a timeout in the second half.
The immediate question was whether Montgomery would be punished for this incident. However, Montgomery's actions will not warrant a suspension from the Pac-12, according to the AP via USA TODAY.
The lack of harsh disciplinary action against Montgomery strongly suggests that this whole controversy is being overblown. Making physical contact with a player as a coach with any sort of malicious intent is obviously never going to fly, but this clearly wasn't the case with Montgomery.
His shove appeared to be a spur-of-the-moment reaction intended to motivate his player, as he did not even fully extend his arms toward Crabbe when the star guard went back.
The Golden Bears were trailing by 12 to the Trojans at the time in a critical conference game at home. Whatever Montgomery said in that huddle and the way he shook Crabbe up must have worked, because Cal went on to win the game 76-68 in front of the home crowd in Haas Pavilion.
In standing at No. 54 in the Ratings Percentage Index (h/t ESPN), the inconsistent Golden Bears are hanging on for their NCAA Tournament lives. That makes competition at this juncture in the season that much more heated.
Although Crabbe was visibly upset with what had happened and walked toward the locker room, he eventually returned to the bench, and the coach immediately had him check back in at the scorer's table.
There was no physical damage done to Crabbe, as he continued to play for all 40 minutes and scored a game-high 23 points and tacked on six steals to boot. Ten of those 23 came in the last four and a half minutes.
For a team that struggles to score as it is with 68.8 points per game—142nd in the nation—Montgomery had to get the Golden Bears' attention. Sometimes, that means giving some tough love even to the best man on the team.
ESPN analyst and former Duke superstar Jay Williams felt that Montgomery wasn't in the wrong at all in the aggressive, bold move he made toward Crabbe.
Williams' point about micro-analyzing certain occurrences in sports holds plenty of weight, and not only because he's a former player.
This situation seems analogous to a blowup between two football players on the sidelines or a coach or offensive coordinator trading heated verbal jabs. Many of these instances are headlines one day and non-stories the next.
Basketball is way more up-close than football, but without knowing what exactly was said, it's hard to formulate a truly informed opinion about the matter other than what could be seen from a TV screen.
Not that shoving a star player is the right move for any coach, because depending on the circumstances, it could result in much direr consequences than what Montgomery faced here.
But considering Montgomery won't face suspension, it seems this story will either be swept under the rug—or even take on a positive spin thanks to the bottom-line result.
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