PISCATAWAY, N.J. (CBSNewYork/AP) — Rutgers is trying to forget about its recent dark past by reaching into its long-ago storied past.
After a turbulent spring in which Mike Rice was fired for berating players and athletic director Tim Pernetti was forced to resign, the Scarlet Knights brought in Eddie Jordan as their 18th coach.
Jordan has a lengthy college and NBA resume, including head coaching jobs with the Kings, Wizards and 76ers. This is his first college head coaching job. He is also a link to Rutgers’ greatest era, having played point guard on its lone Final Four team in 1976.
But Jordan, who inherits a program that has not been to the NCAA Tournament since 1991, has no intentions of using his success as motivation.
“These guys don’t know guys from 10 years ago, let alone 30 years ago,” Jordan said. “It’s all about what’s right now and what they can relate too at present, whether it’s NBA, whether it’s Louisville winning.”
But it’s hard to push away the Scarlet Knights’ magical run way back when.
“We always say something to him about that,” said guard Myles Mack, Rutgers’ leading returning scorer with a 13.6 average. “He always laughs and says ‘Don’t worry about that stuff.’ He doesn’t want us to think about his past, just worry about what’s going on now.”
Coming off a 15-16 campaign — its seventh straight losing season — the Scarlet Knights return seven letter-winners and bring in five new players. Leading scorer Eli Carter transferred to Florida, leaving Mack as the only player who averaged double figures. Derrick Randall and Mike Pool also transferred to Pittsburgh and Iona, respectively.
The scoring dropped drastically after Mack, as forward Wally Judge was next with a 7.1 average and a team-leading 5.4 rebounds per game.
“We need guys to step up, we need to have four or five double figure scorers,” Jordan said. “We need to put points on the board, whether it’s creating stuff off defense or a very disciplined offense. It’s their time.”
One thing’s for sure: It will be one heck of a challenge for Jordan.
Here’s five things to watch at Rutgers this season:
NEW BLOOD PUMPING: Rutgers’ five new players will be counted on to contribute quickly, including Pitt transfer JJ Moore, a senior forward who was cleared to play without sitting out. Moore feels he can supply big-game experience to players who haven’t had much over the years. Other newcomers are former Iowa State forward Kerwin Okoro, and junior college transfers Craig Brown, a forward, and D’Von Campbell, a guard who also played at Texas-El Paso. Forward Junior Etou is the team’s lone freshman.
JUDGE MUST PRESIDE: In his first year at Rutgers after transferring from Kansas State, Wally Judge was up and down. The 6-foot-9 starting forward would show double-double brilliance in one game but disappear in others. If Judge can develop consistency in scoring and on the boards, it would improve Rutgers’ low-scoring frontcourt tremendously. He should have more help up front with the new faces.
IT’S NOT PRINCETON: Jordan became known for running the deliberate Princeton offense of Pete Carril, whom he coached with at Sacramento. Jordan insists this is not a Princeton offense, but a “smorgasbord of offenses” that takes a little from Carril, a little from what Jordan learned playing under Tom Young here, and a little that he installed to adapt to the talents of his players. In other words, the Scarlet Knights will be comfortable in both the half-court set and an up-tempo run game.
CLOUDS CLEAR: For Rutgers’ returning players, who also include starting guard Jerome Seagears, the start of the season marked the end of a nightmare. During the controversy surrounding Rice and Pernetti, the players couldn’t leave their dorms without being besieged by media or having comments yelled at them on campus. Jordan had to clean up what he called “a cloud” and when asked how pervasive the cloud still was, he replied with just one word: “non-existent.”
RESPECT LACKING: Playing one year in the American Athletic Conference between leaving the Big East and moving to the Big 10 next season, Rutgers has been picked 10th in the 10-team conference and is using that as motivation. Moore said a team meeting was held to discuss the lack of respect, and Judge added that the players laugh at the rankings and are anxious to prove them wrong.
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