When I first watched the Mike Rice video that ESPN released on Tuesday April 2nd, I cringed. I cringed for the players. I cringed for Rutgers. I cringed for Mike Rice’s family. I cringed for basketball. When you are committing your life to something you are very passionate about, which involves both competition and mentoring there are at times those moments where you push the envelope, toe the line, and on occasion cross it.
For Mike Rice, there clearly wasn’t a line to begin with.
I have never coached division I college basketball. But passion for the game at the grade school, middle school and high school level where I have spent most of my time coaching is still just as genuine and just as intense for many. There comes a time as an intense basketball coach where you have to remind yourself you are a mentor and role model first, before anything else. There are many ways to still be an effective hard ass and push your kids without coming remotely close to practicing any of the antics that Mike Rice displayed. What he did, what he continued to do, what he consciously chose to do in his practice sessions is one of the worst displays of misguided anger and hate I have seen in a basketball setting.
One of the great things about coaching basketball is that journey through the season. It’s not just about the games and the win loss column. It’s about the improvement of the team, the growth and increased maturity of the individuals, about the bonds, which the game gives us, and about the safety you feel in the practice gym. As I type I flashback to some ultra intense high school practices I both took part in and later ran as a coach. Animal drills, 17’s, charge drills, guys running to the garbage can in the preseason, face to face conflicts over hard fouls. Do you know what the one thing is that was present through all of those things? Safety. You never felt unsafe. And as a coach I never felt out of control. I can’t say the same for Mike Rice.
What is really burning me up on the inside is the following: Not one assistant coach (until former assistant Eric Murdock as ESPN reported yesterday) Rutgers player or the AD was willing to do anything significant about this. Rutgers AD Tim Pernetti should be fired immediately for the choice he made and then fired again for how he defended his decision while on the air with Jeremy Schaap on ESPN. To say publicly that a three game suspension, a $50,000 fine, practice monitoring and counseling is enough of a consequence for these actions is downright asinine and insulting. Imagine being a parent of one of these players? Imagine being one of these players and having to return to Rutgers to play because that is the only option you have as far as a scholarship goes? I couldn’t fathom it.
Coaching basketball, especially at the D-I level is a privilege. No doubt a well earned one, but a privilege nonetheless. Six figure salaries, beautiful facilities, recruiting and travel budgets and all of the other perks that come along with it make for a comfortable life, a great opportunity to not only do what you love and support a family, but also to affect the loves of your student athletes in a positive fashion.
Mike Rice has abused this privilege. So has Tim Pernetti for allowing him to continue to do so. Hopefully in the coming weeks some of the student athletes, representatives and alumni will step forward and be heard. The use of the words f*gg*t, c#nt and the rest of the Mike Rice menu have no pace in any setting, especially this one, one that is supposed to be safe. There is a big difference between using a four-letter word as part of a motivational talk or moment of intense competition where everyone is together as one compared to what Rice has been doing. That is much different than the name-calling, hateful name calling, which in this case is flat out bullying.
No one like a bully, especially one who is making a six-figure salary and who is supposed to be a mentor.
For Mike Rice, it’s time he is sent on a long vacation. Tim Pernetti should be right there with him. That way Rice can have someone to curse at on his way out of coaching.