Each of the Final Four coaches got the Mike Rice question on Thursday, and nobody came to the defense of the Rutgers coach who was fired on Wednesday after a practice tape revealed he was abusive with his players. Louisville’s Rick Pitino and Syracuse’s Jim Boeheim voiced the strongest condemnation.
“This is an isolated incident that doesn’t happen in college basketball,” Pitino said. “As a pro coach I would go to every city and go see a college practice. I’ve seen some coaches using rough language, but that just doesn’t go on. It’s an aberration.”
Boeheim, in his 37th year as a head coach, said he watched 10 seconds of the tape that showed Rice firing basketballs at the players and using foul and homophobic language toward them.
“I don’t think there’s a coach in the country that does that,” Boeheim said. “I know Mike Rice. I’ve known him a long time. The tragedy is his team would have played exactly the same or better if he hadn’t done any of that.
“I get verbal, I’m on players. But … you certainly can’t push them and grab them and throw something at them. I couldn’t watch it.”
NCAA president Mark Emmert said has seen the tape and called the behavior “pretty appalling to say the least.”
“At least I think it requires us to have a conversation … with the coaches association, with the (athletic directors) to see what we can do to make sure that young men and women aren’t being exposed to abusive behavior by coaches. That was just uncalled for and inappropriate.”
The Kansas City-based National Association of Basketball Coaches said it’s open to dialogue.
“The NABC board of directors does not condone these actions nor does it believe it is reflective in any form or fashion of the conduct of men’s basketball coaches as they coach their teams,” the NABC said in a statement.
“There should be no doubt — physical, verbal and/or emotional abuse by a coach is unacceptable regardless of circumstance and those responsible should be held accountable.”
Meanwhile in New Jersey, more than 50 faculty members signed a letter calling for the dismissal of Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti and an explanation from president Robert Barchi for why he didn’t fire Rice last year, when a former assistant coach showed the video to Pernetti. Stephen Sweeney, the president of the state Senate, also called for Pernetti to step down or be fired.
Barchi said in a statement Wednesday that Pernetti told him last year about the video of Rice made by a former basketball program employee, but he said he did not watch the video until Tuesday, the day it was made public.
Two players in interviews with The Associated Press on Thursday defended Rice, saying the snippets of video were taken out of context.
“I feel if people had a chance to see the other portions of practice, or had been at practice, their judgment would not be as severe,” sophomore forward Austin Johnson said. “I am not saying what he did wasn't wrong, because I do believe it was wrong. But it is also tough because it was a highlight reel of his worst moments.”
Junior Wally Judge, a former Kansas State player, said Rice has treated him well and helped him grow as a person and a basketball player.
A Rutgers assistant coach also resigned Thursday. According to The Star-Ledger, the assistant, Jimmy Martelli, could be seen on the video shoving a player.
Martelli said in a statement he was “sickened that as an assistant coach I contributed in any way to an unacceptable culture,” and he apologized to the players “from the bottom of my heart.”The Associated Press contributed to this report