Rutgers Basketball Fortunes
To call the recent history of Rutgers men's basketball an exercise in futility is a vast understatement. Since Tom Young's 1975-6 team went undefeated and journeyed to the Final Four in Philadelphia, Rutgers has had exactly 12 winning seasons under seven different coaches. They have never had a winning record in the Big East since joining the Conference in 1995 and their last trip to the NCAA's came in 1991. Their last NCAA win was in 1983 against Southwest Louisiana.
Young and then Athletic Director Fred Gruninger never had the same vision, causing Young to be forced out. Penn's Craig Littlepage was brought in and there were danger signs the minute he was hired. His Penn teams, with some of the best talent in the Ivy League, went 40-39. He brought with him 2 Ivy League assistants who had never recruited nationally and the results were abysmal as the Knights went 23-63 in his three year tenure.
In came favorite son Bob Wenzel and he brought some hope to the Banks with NCAA appearances in 1989 and 1991, but when Rutgers entered the Big East he could not recruit with the likes of locals like St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova and was fired in 1997.
Rider coach and New Jersey native Kevin Bannon was brought in and he had things going recruiting wise, but fell victim to a poorly thought out naked free throw contest, which he held in late 2000 and almost led to lawsuits against the University.
Bannon was replaced by Gary Waters from Kent State. Waters brought with him a group of Midwestern assistants, led by Kevin Heck who embarrassed both Waters and the university by an uninformed comment, which he made to New Jersey high school legendary coach Bob Hurley. Waters did take Rutgers to the NIT final in 2004, but could neither recruit nor win in the Big East.
Native son Fred Hill, Jr., the son of the Rutgers baseball coach, did no better and was fired after charging a baseball umpire and disputing a call which went against his father's team.
New Athletic Director Tim Pernetti thought he had it right in 2010 after a nationwide search, with the hire of Mike Rice, a highly successful coach at Robert Morris. Rice had been passed over by both Seton Hall and his alma mater Fordham for their head jobs, as both schools privately expressed concerns about his temper and sideline antics. Rice had a great recruiting class in his first season and despite a paucity of wins, brought hope to the Rutgers faithful. That hope was dashed in December when Rice was suspended as coach for three games and fined $50,000 for conduct unbecoming to the university in practices. He allegedly threw basketballs at players' heads during drills and used demeaning language during games. Rice came back to coach on January 2 and is now mired in a five game losing streak. Since his return, his team seems undisciplined and lethargic and there are already rumors of transfers out at the end of the season. Star Eli Carter is one of them.
Rutgers will enter the Big Ten in 2014. Will Rice be with them? An inside source said that he needs to have a winning record this season in order to salvage his job. There have been rumors that Villanova's Jay Wright is interested in the job, largely as a result of the implosion of the Big East and the opportunity to coach in the Big Ten in a similar geographical area to Philadelphia. Time will tell.