By now we've all seen the Mike Rice clips. The former Rutgers coach grabbing players, hurling balls at them, shoving them, calling them homosexual slurs, and generally being an a-hole. All this got Mike a three game suspension back in December until video surfaced yesterday of the basketball coach's behavior at practice.
If we rewind to January, after Rice's suspension was served, we read about how coaches are finding these lines of discipline blurred by today's modern athlete. "Kids, this day and age, just can’t handle a coach getting all over them," said former Fairleigh Dickinson head coach Tom Green back in January. "The disciplining of Rice is just the latest reminder that the days when
players tolerated the verbal and sometimes physical prodding by head
coaches are long gone" NJ.com wrote back in January.
Except of course that this behavior was always wrong and it's more prevalent than we'd like to acknowledge. Bob Knight choked a kid, head butted a player on the bench, talked about beating players with whips, heck he even demonstrated it. In the early days of Billy Gillispie's reign at Texas Tech there were references to his players needing to be tougher. That he would weed out those who didn't belong. Great everyone said, let's kick out the weak and preserve the strong, right? Not until a player insurrection did someone at Tech do something.
Rutgers knew all about Mike Rice back in December. But why risk a basketball season because a mad man is hurling basketballs at players heads? Rutgers AD Mike Pernetti acknowledged a bigger problem “It’s a pattern, I think I would say,” Pernetti said. “But certainly
something that, once we were made aware of it, deal with it in a very
proactive manner.” Proactive until Outside the Lines airs video of your guy grabbing players and calling them homosexual slurs.
Rutgers knew all about Mike Rice back in December. But why risk a basketball season because a mad man is hurling basketballs at players heads?
By the way, at least two of Rutgers basketball players were surprised at the suspension back in December. Senior forward Austin Johnson and sophomore guard Myles Mack both said they were shocked at the news of the suspension. Johnson, said he could not recall an incident at a practice where Rice did anything that would’ve earned him such a serious punishment.
“All I recall is it being in high-intensity practices day-in and
day-out,” Johnson said. “We knew what was expected of us and we tried to
come in and give that same level of intensity. So even if it was high
intensity, we reciprocated and gave it back. That’s just each and every
one of our practices.” They're right of course, such is coaching, the players know this. We don't want to see the real process, the things that are said the motivational tools used. We get selectively offended when someone tells us to.
The question has been asked, and it's a fair one, what if Mike Rice was winning?
The question has been asked, and it's a fair one, what if Mike Rice was winning? What if Gillispie had turned the Red Raiders around? Would they have been afforded the same latitude that Knight had? Would Mike Rice be able to get a job instead of being a coaching leper? I'd bet you that if we knew the things that Rick Pitino or Jim Boeheim or any of them say to their players in the name of motivation we would be shocked and offended. If not the head guy then each has an assistant or two who are well versed in the dark arts and can say and do what's necessary to make sure someone switches on a screen. Believe it.
Success plasters over a multitude of sins. If there is a next time Mike, you might think about winning more.