Sean Woods’ Morehead State Eagles team had No. 8-ranked Kentucky on the ropes for quite some time before eventually falling to the Wildcats, 81-70. However, the main thing many people are talking about from the game is the visible altercation Woods had with point guard Devon Atkinson.
Woods, apparently displeased with Atkinson’s attitude, appears to push the senior point guard towards the bench, resulting in a visibly defiant response from Atkinson. When Atkinson finally is coerced to his seat on the bench, Woods quickly follows up with what appears to be a verbal lashing. The camera stays on a visibly upset Atkinson for a while afterward.
According to a writer for the Lexington Herald-Leader, Woods told Atkinson to "Calm down and figure out a way to cheer your teammates on." Certainly a message any fan can approve of. The delivery is what has some people up in arms.
Unbeknownst to the general public, these exchanges happen quite often, just seldom on camera.
However, hot on the heels of Billy Gillispie and Mike Leach, the public is becoming increasingly aware of and hyper-sensitive to player abuse by coaches.
When issues about coaches' treatment of players come up, opinions are typically divided. Some people call this tough coaching, others call it unacceptable. This example is no different.
For example, this headline could read, “Sean Woods Publicly Berates and Assaults Player in Front of 24,000 People,” or it could read, “Sean Woods Keeps Players in Line with Tough Love.” Neither headline is especially wrong or right, but both are simply examples of the polarizing effect of these events.
Social media and fans around the Internet are already weighing in. As one might expect, some are applauding Wood’s high standards, while others are calling for his job.
Supporters of Woods are claiming the push was actually to avoid further conflict and was not done in malice. Many also pointed out that many other coaches have shown their own brand of tough love to players in the past.
Still others are insisting that it is never okay to touch a player, and that if this had been a high-profile coach he would be under more scrutiny.
It's unlikely that there will be a consensus on this issue anytime soon. What is certain is that these types of exchanges will not go unnoticed in the public eye.