Aren’t you glad you’re not Juwan Howard, the Michigan University men’s basketball coach? You could add any number of men and women to the list of those who have been caught on TV doing something they wish they could erase.
Late in the college basketball season, Howard took a swing at and slapped a Wisconsin assistant coach in the face while the rest of the coaches and players were exchanging handshakes in the post-game handshake line. It was a bad look, and plenty of commentators and sportswriters were quick to criticize him for his behavior.
Some said he should be fired. Others thought he should be suspended for the rest of the season.
The Big 10 suspended Howard for the remaining five games in the Big 10 regular season, but he was allowed to return to coach in the Big 10 Tournament and the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.
We can debate if the punishment was fair, but there’s no doubt that Howard’s reputation took a hit.
Fast-forward just a few weeks to a situation that occurred after a Michigan win in the NCAA Tournament against Tennessee. Once again, Howard was going through the handshake line — the same kind of line where his actions landed him a suspension just a month earlier — when he stopped and embraced Tennessee guard Kennedy Chandler.
Howard hugged and talked to the very emotional Chandler after his 11-seed Wolverines upset the 3-seed Volunteers 76-68 to move to the Sweet 16.
“He said to keep my head up,” Chandler said. “It’s tough for me, and he knew I wanted to get the win. I know him. I’ve played with his son since, like, fourth grade. So I know him for a long time. He’s a great coach. I love him. He told me to keep my head up and you played your heart out, that’s what he told me.”
Howard said, “Just watching his growth, I’ve always been impressed. We recruited him, and unfortunately, we weren’t that lucky. But to see the output, the effort, the growth and being able to produce like that on the floor and how he led his team in a special way — I gave him words of encouragement. It shows his emotion, that he cares. As coaches, you appreciate that.”
It was a touching moment that was captured on camera for the whole world to see.
This time, Howard was not only showing exceptionally good sportsmanship, he also was portraying a father-figure role.
You might think this is a “To Tell the Truth” moment, when the announcer says, “Will the real Juwan Howard, please stand up?”
But that’s the point, isn’t it? We’re more like Juwan Howard than we care to admit. Sometimes we do or say things that are really dumb, and other times we do or say things that people can admire. The difference is that most of our indiscretions or good gestures aren’t captured on national TV.
Situations and circumstances reveal we are all imperfect. We need to be careful about being too quick to judge someone on the basis of one action. If we take an honest look in the mirror, we’d confess that we’ve all said or done something that we regret.
We can learn much from how Jesus once handled an emotionally charged situation. According to the Gospel of John, the Pharisees, in an attempt to discredit Jesus, brought a woman charged with adultery before him. Then they reminded Jesus that adultery was punishable by stoning under Mosaic law and challenged him to judge the woman so that they might accuse him of disobeying the law.
After a few moments, Jesus replied, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” After a time, everyone dropped their stones and left.
When Jesus found himself alone with the woman, he asked her, “Woman. Where are they (her accusers)? Has no one condemned you?”
“No one, sir,” she replied.
“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus replied. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
Words to live by.