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Juwan Howard takes us back to his preseason fight with Al Harrington “That’s not basketball. I get up and popped him.”


Usually, preseason games are not taken seriously. They primarily serve to get into game shape, so players' health is more important than winning the game. But don’t talk about that to Juwan Howard, who got involved in a physical altercation with Al Harrington during a preseason game.

Heated preseason games

Juwan Howard recalled the fight in an interview with The Knuckleheads published on The Knuckleheads podcast. The hosts, Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles wondered how it got to a point where two relatively calm, easy-going, great guys went at each other in a preseason game.

“Their head coach was Isiah Thomas and Isiah trying to get them to play like the Bad Boys. So everybody tryin to do a Laimbeer, some Mahorns. When I put my elbow across his chest, my man, he flipped me back - like a body slam. That’s not basketball. I get up and popped him.”

Juwan Howard, ">The Players Tribune

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It was all good memories now, but looking back, the game was still up for grabs with 4:56 remaining in the game, and then suddenly, all hell broke loose. Howard got ejected, Jermaine O’Neal and Al Harrington as well. For his part, Juwan was fined $15,000 and got suspended for two games. Some fans thought Howard’s frustrations with his performance had something to do with the fight. After all, he was 1-10 shooting that night. Jermaine O'Neal had a similar opinion.

"His frustration boiled over and he hit me on the back of the net. I got stitches and I wasn't crying about that. So don't cry about missing shots."

Jermaine O'Neal, The Intelligencer

Howard’s transition to coaching

The former Washington Wizards forward transitioned to a coaching position with the Miami Heat from 2013 to 2019. After winning two rings as an assistant and learning from Riley and Spo, Howard got his break as a head coach when he was hired to lead the Michigan Wolverines. The presence of a returning alumnus who was a legend of his own proved instrumental to the team. 

In his second year, Michigan recorded a 23-5 record and 14-3 Big Ten record, en route to bagging the top seed in the Big Ten Tournament. Howard received numerous accolades, such as the 2021 Associated Press National Coach of the Year and National Coach of the Year by The Athletic and The Sporting News.

His teams play a physical brand of basketball - no wonder, given his preseason record alone. Sooner than later, we hope to see Howard coaching an NBA team. He deserves it. 

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