By Jon Rothstein
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(Editor’s note: Rutgers announced the firing of Mike Rice shortly after 10 a.m. Wednesday.)
I can still remember the first practice. It was right before Mike Rice’s first season at Rutgers, and it was unlike anything I’d ever witnessed before.
There was intensity. There was chaos. There was a feeling in the gym that made you constantly look over your shoulder.
It was two hours of nonstop action. And it took place before October 1. It was everything the Scarlet Knights program needed, and it’s exactly why Rice was hired.
“His attitude is synonymous with the way we want to play basketball at Rutgers,” Scarlet Knights’ athletic director Tim Pernetti said after he hired Rice nearly three years ago. “His passion and energy blew me away.”
That was back in 2010 when Rice was a coach on the rise, a fighter who was hired at Rutgers to instill toughness. Before his arrival, the Scarlet Knights were viewed as soft and uninteresting under their prior regime, a program that had potential but never seemed to reach it.
Any hope of reaching that potential was likely lost on Tuesday.
The video which caused Rice to be suspended for three games and fined approximately $75,000 was released to the public yesterday. It appeared nationally on ESPN’s “Outside The Lines,” and has been a regular click on YouTube, Twitter, and any other social media forum you can think of.
There were things on the video that I had witnessed first hand, but the way the piece was put together only enhances the magnitude of this awful perception that is now cast upon this program. There was berating, pushing, shoving, and other slurs and obscenities.
No coach can survive something like this, let alone somebody who hasn’t had a winning season in his first three years on the job.
There was a time when Rice looked like the person who could resurrect Rutgers basketball. His fire, passion, and deep-recruiting Rolodex made him look like the perfect candidate to turn New Jersey’s state university into a force on the hardwood.
Those thoughts are all but done now. After the release of this video, we can’t see how Rice makes it to next season.
I’ve sat and watched hundreds of college basketball practices over the past few years at different schools across the country. I’ve seen all sorts of things from coaches — but I’ve never seen something documented like this and sent out to the general public.
If you’re a coach and you’re reading this, here’s one piece of advice. Be careful who you hire.
The video, which was put together by former NBA player Eric Murdock, will ultimately lead to Rice’s imminent termination. Murdock, who served as Rutgers’ director of player development during Rice’s first two seasons didn’t have his contract renewed in the spring of 2012, and obviously had revenge on his mind when he made this tape.
Murdock’s actions do not condone Rice’s, but it’s clear that loyalty isn’t going to be a synonym attached to Murdock any time in the near future.
Rice had to win next season to keep his job before this tape got out.
Now it’s beyond unlikely he’ll get that opportunity.
I’ve seen a lot of things the past decade covering college basketball.
I’ve never seen anything quite like what happened on Tuesday to Mike Rice and Rutgers.
Should Rutgers have fired Rice back in December? Should they fire him now? Be heard in the comments…