Top Coach and Player Altercations in Sports History

incidents of fighting between coaches and players or coaches and other coaches

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The verdict is in on Michigan head basketball coach Juwan Howard. The Wolverines mentor is suspended for the remainder of the 2021-22 season after throwing a punch at Wisconsin assistant coach Joe Krabbenhoft. The incident occurred after the Badgers had beaten Michigan 77-63. Howard was upset about a timeout called by Wisconsin head coach Greg Garde. 

The problem for Howard is that Garde is entitled to use his timeouts whenever he feels like it. Howard, for not controlling his emotions, lands himself squarely in the mix of the top player and/or coach altercations in sports history. Here’s a look at a few others.


Sprewell Choke Out

In the 1997-98 NBA season, PJ Carlesimo was the Golden State Warriors head coach. He had a pretty good guard by the name of Latrell Sprewell, who was averaging 21.4 points and 4.9 assists per game early that season. 

During a practice, Sprewell didn’t like the criticism he was getting from his head coach. Sprewell responded by choking Carlesimo for a full 15 seconds until teammates broke up the two up. Not surprisingly, Sprewell was suspended for the remainder of the season (68 games). 



Ohio State should have seen it coming. In 1959, head football coach Woody Hayes threw a punch at a Los Angeles sports reporter. Almost 20 years later in the 1978 Gator Bowl, Hayes ended his career with one punch.

The Buckeyes trailed Clemson 17-15 when freshman QB Art Schlichter led Ohio State into position for a field goal. On 3rd-and-5 from the Tigers 24-yard line, Schlichter was intercepted and the ball was returned by Clemson DT Charlie Bauman. Bauman was run out of bounds on the Buckeyes sideline where Hayes promptly punched him in the throat. Hayes was fired the next morning.


Not Your Buddy

On any team, there are certain relationships that just don’t work. There have been plenty through the years, but a few come to mind. In 2003 in Oakland Raiders training camp, LB Bill Romanowski pulled off RB Marcus Williams’ helmet and punched him in the face during a drill. The punch broke Williams’ eye socket. The Raiders fined Romanowski and Williams sued. A jury awarded him $340K that Romanowski had to pay. 

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In 2015, in Jets training camp, Ikemefuna Enemkpali punched QB Geno Smith after an altercation in the locker room. Apparently, it was over a money issue. Smith ended up with a broken jaw and was out for the first half of the season. He was the Jets starting quarterback. Enemkpali was waived immediately.


Game Ending Brawl

There have actually been several fights break out during sporting events, but it’s likely you didn’t hear of the one that broke out just two days before Howard threw his punch at Krabbenhoft. North Dakota State won 77-59. A Bison dunk ended the game, but it actually didn’t count as it happened after the buzzer.

That, of course, didn’t matter to Oral Roberts head coach Paul Mills who began yelling at NDSU players. What ensued was what we know as the “bench clearing brawl.” A number of suspensions and fines were levied against both teams by the Summit League as a result.