Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The Rutgers men's basketball program is in
one of its darkest hours.
The school should be getting ready for a transition into the Big Ten, which was
already going to be a difficult process.
Athletic director Tim Pernetti announced that head coach Mike Rice was fired on
Wednesday after video of the Scarlet Knights' practices went viral. During
practices, Rice clearly grabbed, insulted and hurled basketballs at his
players, and he lashed out at players in tirades laced with homophobic and
Former NBA star Eric Murdock pointed out Rice's inappropriate behavior to
Pernetti over the summer and the coach was suspended for three games in
December following the athletic department's investigation of the same
videos many are watching today.
There is a fine line between what is acceptable and not from today's college
basketball coaches. Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski is highly regarded by
basketball experts for his contributions to the game. This season, when his
Blue Devils made their trip to Charlottesville to take on Virginia, he spent an
entire timeout trying to intimidate an official rather than going over strategy
with his squad. California head coach Mike Montgomery was under scrutiny
this season for giving his star shooting guard, Allen Crabbe, a mild push in
the chest as motivation during a timeout.
Being a college basketball coach at the Division I level is a privilege. They
are all very well paid compared to the common worker. Mistakes are going to be
made by the men in charge, it's inevitable. Coach K showing aggression toward a
paid official is an example as is Montgomery's shove of Crabbe. Although being
in charge of a program is sure to yield the stress and pressure of winning,
there is no excuse for behavior like Rice's.
Bobby Knight is considered one of the best coaches in the history of college
basketball, but the example he set was terrible. Many coaches are state
employees hired by academic institutions, but what are they teaching? Even the
top coaches without blemishes on their resumes likely have been guilty of
setting a poor example.
In the current era, when social media reign supreme, every coach is in a fish
bowl. The Bobby Knights of the world are not going to have the same success
they did two decades ago. Indiana dealt with Knight for years, but he also
produced wins and championships.
Rice was hardly comparable to Knight. His hard-nosed and inappropriate approach
to coaching didn't help lift Rutgers out of the Big East's lower echelon. He
went 44-51 in three seasons. With his shadow haunting the program, its
transition to the Big Ten will only be harder.
So with Rice failing to produce results and conduct himself in a responsible
manner, he was still given a second chance by Pernetti. The AD explained
himself on the school's website.
"Dismissal and corrective action were debated in December and I thought it was
in the best interest of everyone to rehabilitate, but I was wrong. Moving
forward, I will work to regain the trust of the Rutgers community," he said.
Pernetti admitting to his mistake months after the fact may not be enough to
save his job. It would have been easy to let go Rice when school officials got
their hands on the tapes last year.
Rutgers wouldn't have owed him any money, and if he sued, it could have
threatened to release the tapes as leverage. Instead, Rice was suspended for
just three games.
He was physically pushing and kicking his players and just sent home for three
games. Imagine what would have happened if one of the kids responded. A 19-
year-old's entire career could have been put at risk if a physical altercation
Rice will be lucky to get another coaching job at any level and Pernetti is
faced with a much bigger mess to clean up. It appears he never considered the
outcome if the tapes became public, which is mind-boggling because practice
tapes can be sought using the Freedom of Information Act.
Once the tapes were sent through the social media world, Rutgers jumped into
the national spotlight. When Montgomery' incident was discussed, there was a
great deal of debate whether the Golden Bears coach crossed the line. There is
no question on this manner.
Rice knew the practices were being taped and he still acted the way he did. The
impact that he has made at Rutgers goes beyond the basketball court. Any high
school recruit for any sport is going to be less likely to go to a school where
the AD allowed such behavior.
The Scarlet Knights' entire athletic program could suffer from the disturbing
methods of Rice. Pernetti will have a lot of questions to answer over the next
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