In case you aren't already aware, Sunday night's Cal win over USC was somewhat overshadowed by a heated incident between head coach Mike Montgomery and Allen Crabbe. At the 16:40 mark of the 2nd half USC hit a bucket to continue a 10-0 run that gave the Trojans a 12 point lead. Monty called a timeout, and was irate with Allen Crabbe. Then this happened.
1. This is not OK. It will always be not OK. Coaches are put in positions of power and are given a ton of respect and deference - sometimes, in my opinion, too much. It's for that reason that we must hold them to high standards. If a player does that to an opponent, he gets a technical. If he does it to a ref, he's ejected. If a player does it to his own coach, he probably gets suspended. In any of those situations, we talk about how the player is immature and needs to be reined in by his coaches. The coach has all the power in this relationship, and it's an abuse of that power to act out physically in any way.
2. Having said that, this isn't some sort of unforgivable sin. The Bears are right on the NCAA tournament bubble and their chances were arguably slipping away. The team was looking uninspired. I don't blame Monty for being upset and angry with his players, and I don't necessarily fault him for getting on them. The shove itself was pretty mild, and it wasn't anywhere near knocking Crabbe over or doing any kind of physical harm. Perhaps more importantly, Monty has a 40 year track record of tough but fair coaching and has earned the benefit of the doubt. It's the type of thing that could easily be shrugged off if . . .
3. Monty needs to apologize. nothing major, just a quick 'It was wrong, I won't do it again.' The closest he came in the post game quotes was when he said that he 'probably over-did it a little bit.' That's not enough, and the generally flippant attitude he displayed towards the incident was alarming. He needs to make it unequivocally clear that it is wrong to act out physically against the players.
Edit: Monty and Sandy Barbour have released statements:
I have great passion for this game and tonight, I let my emotions get away from me in the heat of the moment. While my intent was to motivate our student-athletes, my behavior was inappropriate and I apologize for my actions.
I wish he hadn't needed prompting from the administration, but it's what needed to be said. Hopefully it's enough to move on.
4. Major credit should go to all of the Cal players for responding the right way. Richard Solomon and Justin Cobbs both separated Crabbe from Monty and talked to him, and prevented anything worse from happening. I doubt that the situation would have escalated, but they prevented it from doing so either way. And obviously, I'm very glad that Crabbe himself didn't react rashly. He calmed himself down in the tunnel, reentered the game after 12 seconds went by, and eventually won Cal the game. Very mature responses from players who have had their maturity questioned by fans in the not so recent past.
5. Monty joked (at least, it had better have been a joke) that the shove 'worked.' Even if it did work, that wouldn't make it OK. And as LEastCoastBears pointed out yesterday, that's a pretty specious argument that you'll likely hear from media talking heads over the next week or so. Consider that the shove occurred at the 16:30 mark of the game. Crabbe didn't score for eight minutes of game time and didn't really register positively on the score sheet until there were less than 10 minutes to play. USC actually extended the lead to 15 in the immediate aftermath of the incident. For a few minutes Cal actually looked even more disorganized than they did before the timeout. Frankly, I'm almost inclined to credit Crabbe and his teammates for getting themselves in the right mindset more than Monty, although nobody can really tell.
I think people saying that the shove worked as a motivational tool are making the classic 'correlation equals causation' error, except there isn't really correlation in this case.
6. Cal won in large part because Allen Crabbe is really really good. Phew.