There are a number of you who believe University of Michigan should have fired men’s basketball coach Juwan Howard for smacking Wisconsin assistant Joe Krabbenhoft in the handshake line. Instead, they gave him a five-game suspension and a $10,000 fine.
He will coach the Wolverines again when the Big Ten tournament begins.
The reasoning these people give as to why Michigan should have fired Howard is because if they struck somebody at work, their employer would have fired them. They are probably right. However, sports are not the real world and I have plenty of examples to prove it.
Let’s say you worked at Bob’s Auto Shop. You storm up to customers and beat them to a pulp. Your job would fire you.
But isn’t that what Ron Artest, Jermaine O’Neal and Stephen Jackson did during the Malice at the Palace? They bull-rushed paying customers on their job and beat the hell out of them. None of the teams they played or coached for fired them. They faced stiff fines and suspensions, but all kept their jobs and finish out their careers.
Let’s say you throw a tantrum at work. You become so angry that you curse fellow employees and throw chairs across the office. Your job might fire you if you do this too much.
But isn’t this what Indiana basketball coach Bob Knight did for years? Many praised him for being a disciplinarian. He did not lose his job until after decades of abuse and after he was given a zero-tolerance policy.
Once again. Sports is not “real life.”
Let’s say that you are a college professor. And you get in college student’s faces and curse them with a blue streak. You grab them by the arm and scream so hard that spittle splatters on their faces. Chances are that student will make a complaint. Then you will have to stand before a university committee and then the university will fire you.
But isn’t that what Michigan State basketball coach Tom Izzo does on an almost nightly basis? He yells at his players. He sometimes grabs them when they do not listen. We call it tough love and motivation. Izzo can coach at MSU until he can no longer walk because he’s won a lot of Big Ten titles and eight Final Fours. And because the sporting world is not the real world.
Like Howard, he is a university employee and leader of young men. If Izzo were a chemistry professor, he’d likely be fired. But because he is a basketball coach, his actions will mostly receive praise.
Feb 12, 2022; Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA; Michigan Wolverines head coach Juwan Howard looks on during the national anthem prior to a game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Crisler Center. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Let’s all sing in unison. The sporting world is not the real world.
You must understand that most of you are not as important as Bob Knight, Tom Izzo, Ron Artest, and Isiah Thomas. Your employer either pays you by the hour or a salary. Finding your replacement is as easy as placing an ad on a job search sight.
You likely do not generate millions of dollars for your company. People do not pay to see you work.
It is much more difficult to find someone who is qualified to coach a Big Ten basketball game at a moment’s notice. Or can average 19 points and eight assists a game. That is why boorish behavior is tolerated in professional and college sports.
Juwan Howard kept his job because Michigan still believes he is the right man for the job.
And he kept his job because the sports world is not the real world.
Follow Foster at on Twitter at TerryFosterDet.