No one should ever be subjected to what Mike Rice got away with at Rutgers. Just a disclaimer, the following video (courtesy of ESPN) is not for the weak at heart.
Sometimes, you just have to see something to believe it.
For three years, I had been among the biggest and strongest supporters of Mike Rice, from his near-upsets of Michigan State and Villanova in the NCAA Tournament at Robert Morris, and then during his tenure at Rutgers, where I got to cover him more closely and spend more time around his program. All of that came to a screeching and crashing halt about an hour ago in light of the video footage revealed by ESPN, which shows Rice verbally and physically abusing his players at a Rutgers practice earlier in the season, an incident that landed the coach a three-game suspension and a sizable fine.
Now, I can sit here and say that such discipline is not enough. After watching the aforementioned clip, there is no other recourse for Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti to take than to fire his embattled coach, despite the vote of confidence he gave Rice earlier in the season, no matter how many interviews he gives stating that he is standing behind him. Rice has to go, plain and simple.
The media backlash surrounding Rutgers and Rice is about to, if it has not already, approach a level not seen in Piscataway since the Don Imus incident regarding the Rutgers women's basketball team in 2007, one that ultimately cost him his job at WFAN less than 48 hours later. Rice does not have the immunity of Imus, nor does he deserve it.
Before watching the video footage aired on "Outside the Lines" earlier this afternoon, I was questioned; and justifiably so, as to how I could support the man. My rationale was simple, as I felt that Rutgers assistant coach Eric Murdock was blackmailing Rice and the Rutgers administration as part of a ploy to get him fired. While that may or may not be true, what goes on in the two-and-a-half-minute clip I enclosed above takes whatever support and trust I had in Rice and blows it to pieces.
No less than thirty seconds into watching this footage, I was reminded of something I would rather forget, a life I left behind half a lifetime ago. For those of you who do not know, I come from a broken home, as my parents separated when I was thirteen. My father was, and probably still is; but I have not spoken to him for several years, an abusive alcoholic, and would frequently take his frustrations out on both myself and my mother, more often than not for no reason at all. Watching Mike Rice conduct his practice at Rutgers made me relive my childhood and everything I had to endure for thirteen years with my father, and for those of you who know me well, you know that there is no greater hell for me to talk about than the experiences of my childhood. The Rutgers players who were attacked by Rice throwing basketballs at various parts of their bodies, as well as verbally berated, was too similar to what I went through for me to condone.
Now I am asking myself just how it is that Tim Pernetti is able to sleep at night, knowing full well that he hired a combustible element that turned into a monster. The blazer tosses and intensity only take you so far. How did this man not realize that the man he brought to New Jersey to resurrect his basketball program was only leading it further into the ground? Is Pernetti so taken in by his university's impending move to the Big Ten and the revenue that his football team brings to the program despite never once being able to win the big game, much like the Rutgers basketball programs, that he is willing to look the other way and literally let all hell break loose as Rice becomes the next Billy Gillispie, one who breaks his players mentally and physically just to get his point across?
NO ONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND can justify this, not Pernetti, not Rice, not any Rutgers player. It makes Bobby Knight's chair-throwing and alleged choking of a student in a hallway look like child's play.
When I interviewed Rice at Big East media day in October and asked him how much he had adjusted to the pressure and quality of the Big East and how well he prepared to turn the corner, he responded by saying "year three Coach Rice is better than year one Coach Rice."
REALLY? And how is that, Mike? Because you had two years of coaching this team under your belt to where you felt like you could impose your will a little more often? Did that give you the right to abuse the kids that committed to play for you, not knowing this side of you? Did the fact that you were already there for two years, a long enough period of time for you to figure out how you could push the envelope, give you carte blanche to do what you did?
Don't even try to answer that, because every answer you can give is a bigger crock of you-know-what than telling a child that Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny exists. And as far as that shell of a man that calls himself your supervisor is concerned, I am at least hoping he takes a look at the reaction to this graphic measure and discovers the stones to tell you he no longer needs your services around his team.
You let me down, Mike. Not just me, but your fans, your players, your supporters, and even your family too. The regret that that will bring upon you is an even bigger weight than any names you call your players, than any amount of basketballs you throw at their legs, their chests, their heads, anything. For that, you will pay the ultimate price.
There is a place for you, Michael Rice Jr., but that place is not in Piscataway, New Jersey, nor is it in charge of any program at any level. It is a place full of pain and suffering, magnified and multiplied to such a degree that it is beyond comprehension, even for a morbid and sadistic mind such as yourself. That is where you belong after this, because what you had the nerve to do is downright inexcusable.
That's all I have to say on this, because it will only anger me more if I go on. If you have any questions or comments, feel free to chime in.