The maxim that a coach can never put hands on a player seems too pat. It happens.

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Cal took a day off Monday, and you’d have to say the Bears needed one.

But the college-basketball world didn’t, after Mike Montgomery, the Cal coach, gave it a lot to chew on with his shove of guard Allen Crabbe the night before against USC.

Tuesday on the weekly Pac-12 coaches conference call, Montgomery issued his most detailed mea culpa yet, saying, “I was wrong. You can’t do that.”

In the wake of the incident, there have been a lot of odd conclusions and non sequiturs. Montgomery himself was among the first to issue one, saying after the Cal comeback victory, “It worked, didn’t it?”

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At best, that comment was ill-advised. And that take may have been wrong, anyway. Well after the incident, Crabbe did a lot of standing around looking at the rafters, and 10 minutes later in the second half, USC still led by 10. It was only when Crabbe finally hit a shot that he got hot and took over the game in the last few minutes.

Some have interpreted Crabbe’s conciliatory attitude about it as excusing Montgomery. I don’t think that has anything to do with it. The gesture must be interpreted for what it was, without judgment from the victim.

Then there was the Pac-12’s reprimand of Montgomery. If the league felt the act was worthy of a suspension, so be it. I suspect reprimand is Latin for: “We don’t know what else to do.”

Here’s how to equate the reprimand: If, in a postgame comment some other time, Montgomery took issue with a block-charge call and said the official blew it, he’d probably get a reprimand from the league.

Elsewhere, there are those who wail that society has gone soft. Well, since this is 2013 and not 1959, we’d better learn to live with it.

“Absolutely, it was my fault, totally out of character,” Montgomery said Tuesday. “It’s not acceptable. We’re trying to push on. It’s (been) kind of a firestorm.”

Montgomery said he planned to address it again with his team, “just in terms of lessons learned, in terms of the scrutiny we’re under, how something can take off on you. You really have to be conscious of things. (But) I don’t think anybody (on the team) feels threatened or anything.”

No doubt Montgomery struck a nerve. But the maxim that a coach can never put hands on a player seems too pat. It happens. You see coaches propel a player toward the scorer’s table to substitute, and sometimes it’s 50 percent encouragement and 50 percent get-your-butt-in-gear.

I used to be around a college coach who would occasionally whack a player so hard on the keister when he entered or left the floor that it was tantamount to a spanking. I bring it up not to invoke the days-of-old mentality, but to underscore that coaches will find creative ways to use more than their voices.

Rewind to last fall, when a Washington State assistant football coach was under scrutiny for allegedly roughing up linemen in the locker room at halftime at Utah Nov. 3. What was portrayed to me was more egregious than what Montgomery did, but without TV cameras, it didn’t stick.

Still, Montgomery knows this is a time to have his hat in his hand, nothing more.

“Things have changed in how you can deal with kids,” he said. “There’s a heightened sensitivity. (But) there’s nothing that makes it right. You have to acknowledge that and push forward.”

And What’s More …

• WSU coach Ken Bone disputed an account by Oregon’s E.J. Singler that he heard Cougars telling Dexter Kernich-Drew to foul him before Kernich-Drew’s misguided foul sent Singler to the free-throw line for the winning points Saturday. “I know what Dexter told me,” Bone said. “He apologized and said he thought we were still down one point.”

• Bone said guard Mike Ladd (knee) is “doubtful” this week, and broached the possibility he might not return this year. Ladd is a senior from Rainier Beach.

• The Pac-12 gave Oregon C Tony Woods the go-ahead to play Thursday night against Cal after his ejection against WSU for throwing an elbow against Brock Motum.

• Officiating was also on the mind of Colorado coach Tad Boyle, who said C Josh Scott is day to day with a concussion after a “body slam” by Arizona State. Boyle called it the “most physical game I’ve been a part of as a player or coach in 25 years of basketball.”

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or

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