Even though Morehead State led Kentucky deep into the second half Wednesday night, first-year Eagles coach Sean Woods clearly wasn't pleased his team let the chance for a titanic upset slip away in the closing minutes.
Woods took out his frustration on senior point guard Devon Atkinson late in an 81-70 loss in an exchange that left Atkinson fighting back tears and rendered the Fox Sports South announcers calling the game silent.
When Atkinson committed a reach-in foul and fouled out of the game with 5:51 remaining and Morehead State trailing 69-61, Woods walked onto the court to scream at his point guard and then shoved him in the back toward his seat on the bench. Woods then got nose-to-nose with Atkinson until an assistant coach got between them, but that separation didn't last long because the Morehead State coach again got in the senior's face once he took a seat on the bench.
Anyone who played a competitive sport growing up knows coaches will often resort to tough love when motivating their teams, yet that didn't make the sight of a disconsolate Atkinson on the bench any less cringeworthy for TV viewers. Plus, it's definitely not wise of Woods to get physical with a player, even if the shove in the back wasn't especially egregious.
Asked about the incident after Wednesday's game, Woods told the Lexington Herald Leader he was merely trying to urge Atkinson to "calm down and figure out a way to cheer your teammates on."
Of course, there's irony in that since Woods may want to take his own advice.
Morehead State spokesman Matt Segal told the Associated Press on Thursday the school will discuss the situation internally and any disciplinary action will be announced Friday morning. Woods previously had another intense sideline encounter this season with junior center Chad Posthumus during a 67-45 loss at Maryland on Nov. 12.
If Woods eventually apologizes for the incident, it will mark the second time in a week the former Kentucky star has publicly said he's sorry. The past two days, Woods has backpedaled after criticizing Kentucky's current players for not having an appropriate knowledge of the history of the program and for possessing "a sense of entitlement."