While trailing USC in the second half Sunday night, Cal coach Mike Montgomery began angrily barking at guard Allen Crabbe as he approached the bench during a timeout. What began as an ordinary college coach chewing out one of his star players escalated after Montgomery gave him a quick but forceful shove in the chest.
In the postgame press conference, Montgomery joked that his shove worked as Crabbe scored 14 points in the second half to lead Cal back from a 12-point deficit, however, it was no laughing matter for California athletic director Sandy Barbour who released this statement after the game:
"Sunday's game was an emotional one for everyone who cares deeply about our men's basketball program, and the Bears certainly showed tremendous resolve coming back to earn a win over USC. However, it is unacceptable for our coaches to have physical contact with student-athletes regardless of the circumstances. The second-half incident was certainly out of character for Mike Montgomery, and I am confident that something like this will not happen again."
Montgomery’s shove was the second instance of a head coach getting overly physical with a player on national television. The days of athletes getting manhandled like ragdolls has gone the way of corporal punishment in Catholic schools. That all changed around the time Bobby Knight was ousted from Indiana’s sideline for choking guard Neil Reed.
It’s also a hypocritical message for college coaches to send young men who they've been tasked with serving as mentors for. If any of Cal’s players fail to table their anger in the future and go postal in the waning minutes of a game, it will reflect poorly on Montgomery.
Earlier this season, Morehead State’s Sean Woods was suspended one game following his public exchange with senior guard Devon Atkinson in the waning minutes of a loss to Kentucky.
Like Woods, Montgomery’s passion bucket is overflowing, but it’s not a good look and a similar one-game suspension should do the trick for Montgomery. From the lowest mid-major to high major conference powerhouses, successful college coaches should attempt to instill discipline in their athletes and this hypocritical behavior is anti-productive to that culture. Fellas, practice what you preach in practice.