Rick Barnes has had testy moments he wishes didn’t happen in his coaching career. So the Tennessee basketball coach wasn’t going to judge Michigan coach Juwan Howard for the postgame handshake incident after UM’s loss to Wisconsin on Sunday.
“I can only tell you, I’ve made a lot of mistakes as a young coach, I did,” Barnes said. “I got myself too emotional, and it comes from being competitive. It really does. I’ve had a couple well-documented incidents that, honestly, I wish looking back wouldn’t have happened.
“I wish I would’ve been, some people might say mature, I think it’s competitive instincts.”
Howard hit Wisconsin assistant Joe Krabbenhoft in the face in the postgame handshake line between the teams, setting off a brawl involving coaches and players from both sides.
The moment stemmed from Howard’s displeasure with Wisconsin calling a timeout in the final minute and escalated into a scrum following a heated exchange between Howard and Wisconsin coach Greg Gard.
“I’ve had a couple situations in my career that I wish wouldn’t have happened,” Barnes said. “I have great respect for Juwan Howard. As you know, we recruited his son and know his family. I can just tell you, in the heat of the moment, there are things we all would like to do differently, I can tell you that.”
Howard ducked to the back of the handshake line Sunday. When the Michigan coach reached Gard, he made a quick comment and attempted to pass by. Gard reached out and stopped Howard, who was displeased with the contact. Howard grabbed Gard by his shirt and yelled at the Wisconsin coach.
Others coaches, a Michigan player and a police officer tried to separate the two. After some jostling, Howard hit Krabbenhoft’s face with what appeared to be an open hand.
Players and coaches rushed into a scrum with players. Players from both teams appeared to throw punches. Howard explained after the game he was bothered by Wisconsin calling a timeout in the final minute.
“I can’t pass judgement on anybody, because I’ve made some big mistakes that I wish I could go back and (change). I have, I’ve gone back and apologized to players, in general, that I coached, that I didn’t feel like I coached the right way. I’ve had incidents with officials and other situations that I really wish wouldn’t have happened.”
Barnes had a run-in with former North Carolina coach Dean Smith at the 1995 ACC Tournament during Barnes’ first year as the Clemson coach. According to an Associated Press report, Barnes and Smith and to be separated after coming together at the scorer’s table following a hard foul from a Clemson player on North Carolina guard and current Vanderbilt coach Jerry Stackhouse.
Barnes and Smith were fined $2,500.
Tennessee has had its share of passionate moments this season during SEC play.
UT and LSU personnel had a pregame verbal kerfuffle next to the scorer’s table after the LSU staff member apparently threw a basketball into the stands during warmups on Jan. 22.
A Florida player made a joke about Zakai Zeigler being short during the postgame handshake line after Tennessee beat the Gators 78-71 on Jan. 27 at Thompson-Boling Arena. A slight brouhaha ensued in front of the scorer’s table following the jab at the 5-foot-9 guard. It ended with Tennessee players doing the Gator chomp as Florida players exited the court.
UT and Kentucky had a contentious moment by the Wildcats’ bench early in Tennessee’s 76-63 win on Feb. 16. Kentucky strength and conditioning coach Rob Harris and Zeigler drew technical fouls for their roles in the incident as UT players came to help John Fulkerson after he tumbled into the bench.
Mike Wilson covers University of Tennessee athletics. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @ByMikeWilson. If you enjoy Mike’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it.