A one-game suspension is weak, but that’s okay ‒ a five- or ten-game suspension would’ve been weak, too.
After all, we’ve never managed to come to a consensus on the proper punishment for a teacher who puts hands on a student. We have never agreed on what should happen to a grown man who can’t resist the urge to get physical with someone under his supervision.
I have my opinion, and you have yours. I happen to think it’s embarrassing and childish behavior, but that doesn’t matter. You may think it’s the only tried and true way to shape a wayward young man into a productive member of society.
What did Woods’ employers, Morehead State think? I can’t say they thought, but what they did was suspend Woods for a single game. One of 30.
Too harsh? Too lenient? Absurd that this is even a conversation we’re having?
What it looks like is that Morehead State handed Woods the minimum possible punishment that also qualified as socially acceptable. But who knows ‒ maybe the Morehead State people really believed that a one-game suspension was a stern and severe rebuke that will teach this rogue coach a lesson.
Again: Doesn’t matter.
Ultimately, Woods is going to write his own punishment on this one. In fact, if he writes it well enough, he might be write his way out of punishment all together. He could turn it into reward. Like any other issue in college sports, this will be decided by money and wins.
The last coach at Morehead State, Donnie Tyndall, got the Eagles to the NCAA tournament twice in the last four years, which is a tremendous accomplishment at a school like Morehead State. It earned him a job with a higher profile and a higher salary. He’s at Southern Mississippi now.
Say Woods spends the next five years doing the same ‒ getting the Eagles into the NCAA tournament with some regularity. He’ll get the same rewards Tyndall did. Wins will earn him a better job. And if he keeps winning games at the new job, he’ll get an even better job.
And this little incident? The one where the teacher didn’t like a student’s behavior, so he had an impulse to shove him, and he couldn’t control that impulse?
Well, that’ll turn into evidence of Coach Woods’ passion and intensity. It’ll be an illustration of the value Coach Woods places on discipline. It’ll be teaching a young man ‒ anyone remember his name, by the way? ‒ a valuable life lesson. It’ll be everything that’s good about college basketball, and any condemnation of the act by outsiders will be further evidence of the United States becoming a nation of spoiled pantywaste sissies.
That’s if he keeps winning. That’s the script he can write. If he fails to win, though, that next job will be a little harder to come by. Someone will always hire an abusive coach, so long as he’s bringing home that tournament money. For abusive coaches who lose, though, it’s a little more of a buyer’s market.
So in the event that Woods’ scream-y and shove-y style of coaching doesn’t turn Morehead State into an Ohio Valley dynasty, you probably won’t hear the name Sean Woods much again. You’ll maybe hear something like, “Hey, do you remember that one crazy coach at Morehead State who shoved a kid that one time?” But not much else.
For Woods and any other coach, winning is the apology that will always be accepted. Winning can absolutely make this go away. If Morehead State wins the OVC this year, Woods can shove another kid next year, no problem.
And the next year, if the Eagles happen to make a Cinderella run to the sweet sixteen, Woods can do it again. He can do more, even. A sweet sixteen appearance buys him a license to choke a small forward of his choosing. By that point, Coach Woods will be a real no-nonsense disciplinarian, you know? He’ll be someone who can get tough on his kids when they need it. Coach Woods will be the kind of coach we need more of.
So at this moment, things are about the same for Woods as they were a week ago. Sure, he’ll be talking to more reporters than usual for a few more days, but that’ll die down. When it does, he’ll be left with the same truth that existed before the shove ‒ wins will make him and losses will break him.
He might break a little easier with this incident, or even rise a little faster, but this incident doesn’t begin to change the way decisions are made in college basketball. It still all turns on wins and the money they bring.
Sean Woods’ fate is still in his own hands ‒ all but one game of it.