Shoved into controversy

CAMPUS ISSUES: Cal basketball coach Mike Montgomery should not have shoved Allen Crabbe, but the issue has been blown out of proportion.

In the heat of the moment, Mike Montgomery let his emotions get the best of him.

Down by double-digit points to an opponent it should have been besting, the Cal men’s basketball team needed to turn Sunday’s game against USC around. Fast. So Montgomery approached junior guard Allen Crabbe and, in an apparent attempt to rally the player, placed two hands on Crabbe’s chest and gave him a forceful shove.

That action was unacceptable. The sports media, fans and others who have decried the shove are right to call Montgomery out on his inappropriate conduct. Coaches should not be physical, however arguably effective — Cal ended up winning the game handily — to motivate their players. Montgomery must never repeat the incident.

At the same time, reactions to the shove have been overblown to a certain extent. Yes, Montgomery should not have shoved Crabbe. But he and his superiors rightfully recognized that: Montgomery and Cal Athletics Director Sandy Barbour each apologized. Montgomery was reprimanded by the Pac-12 commissioner.

And that’s all the punishment he deserves. State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, is one of many voices that have called for Montgomery’s suspension, but that would have been wildly inappropriate. The punishment should fit the crime. Especially given Crabbe’s reaction to the shove — he downplayed the incident at the postgame conference — it really does not warrant any additional consequences.

Yee and others demanding Montgomery’s suspension need to recognize the shove for what it really was: a heated moment that went too far. A reprimand and a public apology do not mean that the campus and the Pac-12 condone Montgomery’s actions. They were appropriate responses given the severity of the situation. As is apparent in his public apology, Montgomery acknowledges his wrongdoing. Unless his behavior in the future indicates otherwise, the public should trust that he will do better.