Rutgers University fired men’s basketball head coach Mike Rice on Wednesday after videos surfaced of Rice physically and verbally abusing several players on the team.
On Tuesday, ESPN debuted hours of video footage of men’s basketball practices from 2010-12 obtained by ESPN’s “Outside the Lines.” The footage shows Rice hurling basketballs from close range at his players heads, legs and feet; shoving and pushing his players; punching them; kicking them; and screaming vulgarities.
“I feel that what Mike Rice did is and will always be unacceptable for a coach or administrator to do,” WSOU sports director Chris Paizis said. “Coach Rice clearly has anger issues that he needs addressed.”
In the video, Rice also directed foul language towards his players during practice, using homophobic slurs.
Rutgers’ Athletic Director Tim Pernetti finally viewed the video in December, and suspended Rice for three games, and fined him $50,000. The suspension also required Rice to take anger management classes. At the time, Pernetti cited the incident as “inappropriate behavior and language.”
“I believe Rutgers University handled the situation as best they could dating back to when the incidents occurred,” Paizis said.
The news leaves many in the sports world stunned over how a coach could do this to his players and get away with it for so long nonetheless. Several Seton Hall University students commented on the breaking news regarding their in-state rival.
“I feel this is very unprofessional of him to take these actions,” freshman Zach Hrubic said. “As a coach, you’re supposed to discipline your players; however, physical contact should never take place. If my coach ever laid hands on me, I would definitely stand up for myself, regardless of who the coach was. I would also take initiative to talk to my teammates to figure out a game plan to stop the abuse.”
Junior Vince Coughlin said Rice was way too aggressive with his players.
“If something like this happened here at Seton Hall, I would want him fired immediately,” Coughlin said. “Basketball is supposed to be something good for the university and the community and I wouldn’t want something like that to affect that.”
Former Seton Hall men’s basketball head coach, Bobby Gonzalez, who knows a thing or two about finding himself in controversy, shared a few thoughts on Mike Rice’s three-game suspension and other conditions at Rutgers with SNY back in December 2012.
“I would say, first of all, that I think Mike Rice is doing an outstanding job and I mean that sincerely,” Gonzalez told SNY.tv. “And second of all, I’ve been there as a coach and when you’re looking for different ways to motivate players and you’re trying to be creative and you’re fired up and you’re intense, sometimes you have good ideas and sometimes they’re bad ideas.”
Gonzalez and Rice coached against each other once, with Seton Hall coming from behind to beat Robert Morris back in 2007. Because of his fiery personality, Rice was compared by some to Gonzalez when he was hired at Rutgers in 2010, the same year Gonzalez was fired at Seton Hall and replaced by current head coach Kevin Willard.
“I feel like right now the basketball program is the heart of Seton Hall athletics and if this happened here most people would lose faith in the program,” junior cheerleader Christina Richardson said. “Basketball is very important to Seton Hall and I think if our Catholic community was to discover abusive behavior in our coach, they would no longer support the Pirates like they did before. I would negatively affect our school in a tremendous way.”
Starting the 2014-15 season, Rutgers University will move to the Big Ten conference, ending an 18 year stint with the Big East Conference since joining in 1995.
Eric Murdock, an ex-NBA player and a former director of player development for Rutgers told “Outside the Lines” Tuesday that Rice’s “outrageous behavior had caused at least three players to transfer from the team.”
This list includes forward Gilvydas Biruta, who transferred to Rhode Island prior to last season.
Biruta, who was born in Lithuania, played high school basketball in New Jersey. He described the situation to ESPN.
“He would throw his cap at me and he would call me many names,” he said of Rice. “The adjectives were creative. They were mean words.”
Murdock’s contract was not renewed this past summer in what Murdock believes was becaise of him complaining about and reporting illegal conduct by Rice. Murdock’s attorney, Raj Gadhok, said Tuesday that Murdock intends to sue the Rutgers for wrongful termination.
David Heim can be reached at email@example.com. He can also be found on Twitter @davidheim12.