Yee says Cal coach's shove was damaging and deserves punishment

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Coach Montgomery shoves one of his players during Sunday's emotional game between Cal and USC.

UC Berkeley basketball coach Mike Montgomery’s spur of the moment shove of star Cal player Allen Crabbe during Sunday’s game against USC has garnered quite a bit of attention from the sports media. It also elicited a strong written condemnation from Senator Leland Yee, who is calling for Montgomery’s suspension. Yee, who got a degree in psychology from UC Berkeley, said the following in a press release:

While I have a lot of respect for Coach Montgomery and I appreciate his apology, his actions at last night’s game were completely unacceptable. As a psychologist, I can assure the university and Coach Montgomery that physically pushing a student-athlete does nothing to motivate them. We do not accept such behavior by our professors and administrators, and we should not tolerate it with our coaches.

The game was an emotional one, but representatives of UC – especially adults – need to be able to control their emotions and refrain from physical altercations with students. I urge the university to take swift disciplinary action of at least a one-game suspension and I wish the Cal basketball program the very best as they enter the final games of the season.

It’s unclear whether UC officials are likely to cave to pressure from Yee. So far the matter rests with a reprimand from Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. Lee has made it clear that he thinks such a response is inadequate. He told the media that he would be calling UC officials personally on Tuesday.

Yee’s chief of staff, Adam Keigwin, confirmed that Yee did indeed spend about 30 minutes yesterday talking with Athletic Director Sandy Barbour.

“He expressed why he was concerned with the situation—as an alum, and as a father who has sent his kids to the UC, and as a grandfather who hopes to send his grandkids to the UC,” Keigwin explained. “As a psychologist, he has seen these cases where kids get pushed around, and that just leads to more aggressive behavior and eventually violence.”

Keigwin said that Barbour seemed to agree with Yee, although regarding a harsher punishment she made no promises. Yee would like to see a one-game suspension, or a redaction of his pay for the USC game.

“We’re still waiting to see what she’ll do with that,” said Keigwin. “We’ll give her a day or two to determine what the outcome is going to be.”

The magnitude of Yee’s response might seem odd, but in fact he rarely misses an opportunity to criticize the UC administration. In the past, he has very publicly battled with UC officials over issues of transparency and a controversial nomination to the Board of Regents.

Meanwhile, Montgomery—who initially responded to the incident by saying simply: “Worked, didn’t it?”—has since issued a full apology.

“Trying to get into kids’ faces every now and again just to get them going is kind of what you need to be able to do.” said Montgomery. “[It was] just a bad choice of motivational techniques on my part.”

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