Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice was fired Wednesday morning after an assistant coach exposed behavior by Rice so abusive that outrage spread quickly.
By BLAIR KERKHOFF
The Kansas City Star
Video of practices during the 2010-11 and 2011-12 seasons shows Rice hurling basketballs at players, sometimes at their heads. The tape also shows Rice kicking a player, punching and pushing several and screaming obscenities and gay slurs at them.
With mounting criticism on a state and national level, the school decided to take action on Wednesday, relieving Rice of his duties after three largely unsuccessful seasons at the Big East school. There will be a national search to replace him.
According to Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti, the video was given to ESPN by Eric Murdock, a former director of player development for Rutgers whose contract wasnt renewed after a conflict arose about a camp appearance. The video was also shown to reporters in New Jersey on Tuesday after Rutgers officials learned it would air on ESPNs Outside the Lines program.
Pernetti first saw the video in November, when Murdock gave him a copy. Pernetti suspended Rice for three games and fined him $50,000, ordered him to attend counseling and sensitivity training and assigned a monitor to his practices.
In an interview with WFAN-AM in New York, Pernetti said Rutgers president Robert Barchi saw the tape and concurred with the punishment against Rice. But after backlash from NBA players, including LeBron James, and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Rutgers reconsidered and eventually decided to fire the coach, who had two years remaining on a five-year contract.
Governor Christie saw the video today for the first time and he is obviously deeply disturbed by the conduct displayed and strongly condemns this behavior, Rutgers spokesman Michael Drewniak said Tuesday. Its not the type of leadership we should be showing our young people and clearly there are questions about this behavior that need to be answered by the leaders at Rutgers University.
The video is stunning and the outcry came from all corners in social media.
From their Twitter accounts:
• LeBron James (@KingJames): If my son played for Rutgers or a coach like that he would have some real explain to do and Im still going to whoop on him afterwards! Cmon
• Stephen Curry (@StephenCurry30): Man how is that Rutgers coach not fired already? If my son was on that team Id be on the first thing smoking to his soon to be vacant office.
• Doug Gottlieb @GottliebShow: No way Mike Rice should keep his job. No way. Sorry, man, not acceptable Coaching fraternity is right, that stuff is unacceptable.
The behavior may be unacceptable but its not unusual. Rice isnt the first college basketball coach whose behavior was questioned this season.
Billy Gillispie cited health concerns when he stepped down at Texas Tech on Sept. 20, 2012, but allegations had surfaced that he had mistreated players since taking over the program the previous year. Among the accusations, Gillispie forced injured players to practice. After playing this season under an interim coach, Tech introduced Tubby Smith as its full-time coach on Tuesday.
Murdock told Outside the Lines that Rices behavior had caused at least three players to transfer from the team, including Lithuanian-born Gilvydas Biruta, who told ESPN that Rice would throw his cap at me and he would call me many names they were mean words.
Former Kansas State guard Wally Judge, now a junior at Rutgers, told ESPN that Rice never put hands on him and that practices were harder at K-State.
Rice, who was hired by Pernetti three years ago, was 44-51 at Rutgers, including 16-38 in the Big East, after going 73-31 in three seasons at Robert Morris. The Scarlet Knights went 15-16 this season and 5-13 in the Big East.
Murdock told ESPN that he first told Pernetti about Rices behavior in the summer. Murdocks attorney told ESPN that his client was fired for having complained about Rices conduct.
Pernetti told WFAN he understood why many were asking why Rice wasnt dismissed.
I spent more time with that option on whether we should fire Mike or not than any other option, Pernetti said. My biggest concern as the A.D. is that I am always trying to protect the interests and reputation of the university and thats what makes this one so difficult.
There is a lot of hindsight, 20-20 that there will be no other option than to terminate Mike. I made that decision. I am accountable for it. I have to live with it.
The Associated Press contributed to this report