Cal coach says no excuse for shoving player

Cal coach says no excuse for shoving player
California head coach Mike Montgomery gestures and yells to his players during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Oregon, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2013 in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

BERKELEY, Calif. (AP) — California coach Mike Montgomery said Tuesday there was no excuse for him shoving his star player during a game and that the action was completely out of character for him.

"The fact was, I was wrong," Montgomery said on a Pac-12 conference call Tuesday. "Looking back, you can't do that."

Montgomery has been publicly reprimanded by the Pac-12 conference and his own athletic director for pushing Allen Crabbe with both hands during a timeout in the second half of Cal's 76-68 win over Southern California on Sunday night.

After initially downplaying the event by calling it a motivational tactic and saying he would do it again because it worked, Montgomery issued an apology statement later that night and then expanded on that Tuesday.

"There's no excuse," he said. "I've been doing this 31 years. There's no excuse. I know better. It's totally out of character for me. I think things have changed in terms of how you can deal with kids. There's a heightened sensitivity to these kind of things but that doesn't change it. But there's nothing that makes it right. I was wrong. You have to just acknowledge that and push forward."

Montgomery said he called Crabbe's father to tell him he was out of line and that he will address the issue with his team at practice later Tuesday. Montgomery said this incident can be a learning experience for him and his players about the scrutiny they are under and the importance of controlling emotions.

Montgomery said his talk with Crabbe's father was all positive and that his relationship with his star player is good. Crabbe said after the game that emotions were high at the time and Montgomery was just trying to motivate him. Crabbe, the leading scorer in the Pac-12 with an average of 19.8 points, scored 14 points after the shove and led the Bears back from a 15-point deficit to win.

"To try to mitigate or find an excuse or a reason why something like that might happen, doesn't work right now," Montgomery said.

Lost in the hubbub from the controversy of the shove Sunday night is the fact that Cal has been playing its best basketball of late. The Bears have won five of the past six games to get into contention for an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament and to move into a tie for fourth in the conference with Arizona State.

Cal has quality wins over Oregon and Arizona when both teams were ranked in the top 10 and gets another shot at the Ducks on Thursday night when the Bears begin their weekend trip to Oregon.