The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Local News

April 4, 2013

Mike Pound: Coach’s rants were excused for too long

My Uncle Jim once told me that when he and his two brothers were kids, they used to serve Mass at the Catholic church in Burlington, Kan.

Jim said that once, when his older brother Bob was serving Mass by himself, he made a mistake during the service. After the Mass, the priest was so upset with Bob that the priest slapped him in the face.

When my grandmother, who was about as strict and devout as a Catholic woman could be, found out what happened, she was so furious that she walked over to the church, located the priest and — as the expression goes — ripped him a new one.

If my grandmother would do something like that to a Catholic priest, I can only imagine what she would have done to former Rutgers University basketball coach Mike Rice if one of her sons had been on the receiving end of one of his rants.

I’m guessing Rice would still be trying to have a basketball surgically removed.

Rice, of course, was fired Wednesday after video of him physically and verbally abusing team players in practice was made public.

The important thing to note is that Rice was fired after the video was made public — not after his supervisors first saw the video. Apparently, Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti first saw the video in November. After an investigation, he and university President Robert Barchi decided that, rather than fire Rice, they would suspend him for three games, fine him $75,000 and order him to attend anger management classes.

Yeah, that’ll learn him.

There are so many things wrong with this story that it’s hard to know where to begin. I guess the best place to start would be with Rice himself. I don’t know the man, but based on what I saw on the video, the guy acted like a jerk. Sure, I saw his apology the other day, and sure, he sounded sincere. But I’m not buying it. Rice said that after he watched the video of himself yanking players around the court, hurling basketballs at them and screaming obscenities and slurs, he realized “how deeply regrettable those actions were.”

Really? You had to watch the video to understand that a coach shouldn’t shove and push his players, or hit them with basketballs?

According to the former Rutgers basketball employee who made the video public, Rice abused his players only in practices that were closed to outsiders. When university officials were around, Rice was all smiles and encouragement.

It seems to me that Rice knew all along that treating players like cattle was not what he was taught in Coaching 101.

Almost as disgusting is the fact that Pernetti and Barchi didn’t fire Rice the second they saw the video. Who watches something like that and says, “You know, maybe we can rehabilitate him”?

Pernetti, the athletic director, at least is owning up to what he did. He said the decision he made to only suspend and fine Rice was his, and that now he has to live with that decision. The university president? Not so much.

In a classic case of weasel wording, Barchi, in his statement Wednesday, tried to imply that he didn’t watch the tape in November. Here’s what he said:

“Yesterday, I personally reviewed the video evidence …”

So, either Barchi did watch the tape in November and therefore is guilty of letting a jerk continue to work with Rutgers student athletes, or he didn’t and therefore is guilty of not doing his job as president of a major university.

As it turns out, at least according to Pernetti, Barchi was shown the video in November and agreed with the decision to let Rice continue to coach.

None of that, of course, changes the fact that it was Rice who shoved his players. It was Rice who threw basketballs at them and screamed obscenities in their faces. It was Rice who acted like the jerk.

I can only hope that some of the parents of Rice’s former players are like my grandmother.

And that one day they run into Rice in a dark alley.

DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA for Mike Pound’s column? Call him at 417-623-3480, ext. 7259, or email him at mpound@joplinglobe.com. Follow him on Twitter @mikepoundglobe.

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