Coaches label Rice behavior a ‘tragedy’
by Dan Wolken, USA TODAY Sports
ATLANTA — Each of the coaches involved in this weekend’s Final Four said they viewed the situation that led to Mike Rice’s firing at Rutgers as isolated behavior that would be considered reprehensible throughout the profession.
“I don’t think there’s a coach alive that does what you’ve witnessed,” Louisville coach Rick Pitino said. “I’ve never seen it in my life. For eight years (as an NBA coach and executive) I went around and watched college practices. I’ve seen guys who were very tough on their players but they don’t physically throw balls at them, do those things. I think that it’s an isolated incident, and it was a very serious isolated incident.”
Rutgers parted ways with Rice on Wednesday, less than 24 hours after ESPN aired video clips from practices in which he displayed a wide range of inappropriate behavior including pushing players, throwing balls at them and calling them vulgar names, including gay slurs.
Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti decided not to fire Rice upon first obtaining the tapes in December, instead suspending him three games and fining him $75,000. But once the tapes went public, the outcry was so significant that Pernetti quickly reversed the decision.
No other coach in the country has gone on record defending Rice, and the coaches here disagreed with the notion that more of that kind of behavior goes on behind closed doors.
“I absolutely do not believe there’s that coaching style going on,” Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim said. “I don’t think there’s a coach in the country that does that. I know Mike Rice, I’ve known him a long time, I think he’s a very good basketball coach. I think the tragedy is his team would’ve played exactly the same or better if he hadn’t done any of that.
“If he never threw a ball, never touched anybody, his team I think would’ve played better. I watched 10 seconds of the video; I couldn’t watch it, honestly.”
Michigan coach John Beilein disagreed with the theory that coaches would change their approach to videotaping practice as a result of the Rice situation because they are already used … [For more on Final Four coaches label Mike Rice behavior a 'tragedy', click here.]