Future of Mike Rice at Rutgers?
It was a good win, perhaps the best of the season for 7-2 Rutgers. They beat a veteran UAB team 88-79. But there was much more going on in Piscataway than a game. First, there was a moment of silence before the game for the slain in nearby Newtown, Connecticut.
There was also the matter of David Cox and not Mike Rice coaching the Scarlet Knights. That would be Associate Head Coach David Cox and not Head Coach Mike Rice. The third year coach was suspended for three games and $50,000 lost salary by Athletic Director Tim Pernetti last Thursday. The details of the suspension are a bit hazy, but they certainly have to do with a threatened lawsuit by former Director of Basketball Operations and NBA player Eric Murdock relating to his termination last June.
Is Rice controversial? For sure. He has some antics on the sidelines which rival Jim Calhoun. But Calhoun has three national championships. Rice has none. That is one of the reasons that Seton Hall passed on him. Pernetti saw something in him which caused the hire. And it made sense. Rice was highly successful at Robert Morris and almost beat Villanova in the NCAA's.
Rice had an incredible first recruiting class at Rutgers and all seemed good. He also had some major upsets, including one over Calhoun and UConn. He had a 35-37 record, including 6-2 this season, but an upset loss to St. Peter's in the opening game really seemed to set him off. He also could not have been happy after last year's starting center Gil Biruta, with little notice, transferred to Rhode Island…a downward transfer. The thrust of the Murdock complaints seemed to hit hard last week and Pernetti was prominent at the Rutgers three point win over George Washington last Tuesday, watching Rice carefully.
So what does this all mean? Well, Cox will be the coach through the rest of 2012, maybe longer. Rice will undergo anger management. Will this scare off future recruits? It’s too early to tell. His players seem to have rallied behind him as has at least one major AAU coach. It is my guess that Rice will be back when his Knights travel to Syracuse on January 2. His behavior in practice and at games will be monitored. Also, his success with a talented team this year will be judged. Anything short of an NIT bid may not be enough to save Rice. Rutgers basketball fans are starved for the postseason. They were last in the NCAA's in 1991. They were last in the NIT in 2004, losing in the finals to Michigan.