Concerning this whole Rutgers coach thing….

I’ve been out of the loop on current events for the past couple weeks. When you’re entrenched in your own work, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s actually happening beyond your personal borders. That, and I don’t watch the news very often anymore. If I see one more story about the inherent danger of rattlesnakes inhabiting my plumbing, which have the capacity to swim through my toilet and bite my colon while I sit on said toilet, I’m going to disconnect my news stations on cable forever. Just saying’.

But this past weekend I got up to speed on a story that concerned a certain college basketball coach – the coach being Mike Rice of Rutgers (formerly coach Mike Rice, that is). Like any American man who has aspirations to send his kids off to sports camp one day, I decided to check into this story further.

Now, when I hear stories about college coaches, it’s not always in the best context. There’s a persistent pattern among these guys where some hidden scandal eeks its way into the light, thus exposing the coach for something other than a proper role model. Unfortunately, Mr. Rice fit right into this pattern. Some “leaked” security camera footage had caught snippets of Mr. Rice’s practices in the Rutgers gym. Conservatively speaking, Mr. Rice’s practice methods and routines were not the most “productive” or “uplifting”.

After watching the footage, which involved Coach Rice screaming profanities, shoving players, and literally tossing basketballs at player’s feets and heads, I was left feeling quite disgusted. He even went so far as to call players ‘f***ing fairies’ and ‘faggots’. Considering how large some college basketball players are, I’m surprised that no one turned and decked him right where he stood. Any one of the guards or forwards could have easily taken out this older man, but that’s just it – he had authority over them. Here was a guy with a position of authority, compounded by absolutely no sense of responsibility for holding that position, and yet every player, regardless of size or class level, did not retaliate because of Mr. Rice’s position. And so, Mr. Rice’s less than redeeming traits continued for a very long time.

Another sad story to chalk up among shady Division I collegiate activities.

You can probably guess what happened next: Mr. Rice was relieved of his duties, the school issued a formal apology and quickly set out to replace the former coach Rice. Bing, bang, boom – we’re off to the races as if nothing ever happened, right? Well, not really.

Since we live in America, we love to tell both sides of the story. The media allowed for Mr. Rice to give his side of the story via a short interview. This is the part I got to after watching the security camera shots. If you missed any of what he said, it was something to the extent of “I’m sorry”, “no excuses”, and “I have to face my family now”.

There was plenty of regret in his voice, I will admit, but there was something lacking in his statemtns. I missed any part where he might have said this: “I got caught and that’s why I’m sorry; not because I really am sorry. I’m just sorry for getting caught.”

That’s what he should have said. Instead, I got treated to the same regretful speech we hear from anyone who gets their hand stuck in the cookie jar. Any person is ashamed by an action that results in reprimand; that’s a no-brainer. But we are also too ashamed to admit how what we thought we were doing was ‘ok’ when we did it.

Rice’s vulgar taunts and poor behavior showed a complete lack of empathy for his players. In no way did he exhibit any of the characteristics one would ask of a mentor. He was a bully, plain and simple. I am sure he thought that by verbally and physically abusing his players, he could whip them into shape. Make them into hard-nosed ball players; the likes of which his opponents would fear and cower against. Because that’s what Rice’s style was about: coaching through fear and intimidation.

Did Joseph Stalin repent for his military tactics during the wars? Was Napoleon Bonaparte regretful in his last letters before surrender? And did Coach Rice really feel like he was doing wrong whilst he badgered and abused his players?

Well, in all honesty, that’s some serious gray area, but it makes you wonder. And by no means am I trying to lump a college basketball coach in with the likes of historically significant figures – I’m merely trying to prove a point. Often our blind ambition leads us into a sea of confused and ill-adivsed procedures. Some considered Stalin to be a tyrant while others praised him for his effectivness. Coach Rice may have thought his tactics as a coach would work in some similar way. That by being a dictator, he would be successful; he would implement his methods thoroughly; and he would be regarded as a respectable coach for his efforts.

Most third-party perspectives would disagree with this though, especially if they are in the business of teaching our youth (aka the staff at Rutgers University). Most people would look at the tapes and call the former coach a ‘monster’ for his actions. They would see the tapes and think, What if that were my kid he was yelling at? What if that were my kid he was putting his hands on and throwing basketballs at? Once they weighed these questions in their minds (and their hearts), they’d come to the consensus that Mr. Rice’s coaching style was truly skewed. That he was in no way a positive representation of what coaches are meant to be like; at any level.

But in his mind? Eh, maybe not so much. That’s why I’d be more impressed if the man actually came out and said, “Hey, I did what I thought was effective. Some people view it as wrong, but that was my style.” And THEN he could follow it up with, “But I see that this particular style of coaching is completely inappropriate. I’ve embarrassed all those around me and I am going to dedicate myself to learning to coach properly.”

Wouldn’t that be more sincere? And wouldn’t you take him more seriously? I don’t mean to single out Mr. Rice on this – he just so happens to be the latest tragedy in college sports scandals. But what I say holds true. By telling me that he watched the footage and had no excuses for himself – yeah, ok, that’s great BUT why not just say that you thought you were being a tough coach? At least then I could take you seriously. Even if I still thought you were a complete lunatic, I could at least respect you for being straight up about it.

Apologizing and saying you’re sorry just means you got caught doing what you thought was right. No matter how you may have justified the wrongdoing in your head – you still thought you were ‘ok’ in what you were doing. Admit that first and then you’ll actually see some change the next time around. That’s what needs to happen after such a lapse in judgment – a complete admittance of wrongdoing and need for character change.

And if I had kids of my own, specifically freshman to senior level basketball players on the Rutgers team, Lord knows what measures I would have taken to get a person like him fired. That’s the most politically correct way I can express that too. Just sayin’.


  1. Laura Hedgecock says:

    I too, think that “Considering how large some college basketball players are, I’m surprised that no one turned and decked him right where he stood.”

    Thanks for such a thoughtful post. I wonder if it goes deeper than what Mike Rice thought would work or what he thought he could get away with. Even in junior varsity high school sports, parents and players are afraid to complain. Coaches have the perfect weapon of vindictiveness–play time.

    Time for the rest of society to stop turning a blind-eye, unless of course, they’re turning a blind-eye to insincere apologies.

    Laura Hedgecock

    • Thanks for your comments. I agree with what you said about being blind to insincere apologies. Perhaps it does go deeper in this situation as well. Only the person giving the apology knows that, I guess.

  2. Thoughts says:

    I commonly think of grown adults as children. It is refreshing, the picture becomes clearer to me. I have done this every where I have been at my places of employment in the past.

    I watched have the kids (adults) interact. What makes them tick. Why do we socialize the way we do. Is not envy, prowess, pride, still evident? Those that were talkative when they were young are talkative now, gossiping and socializing any subject to death. Just like they must have done when in grade school.

    Those who were quiet like myself, still quiet.

    I look in the review mirror and watch a pretty beat up middle aged man sucking down another cigarette on another morning commute. The “I don’t care, it makes me feel better” attitude. Another characteristic from childhood. Where does this come from? What shapes us?

    The extremely annoying guy at the baseball game that seems to have no conscientious idea of when to shut up.

    The innate desire to shut him up…

    We are children, socializing and acting the same…

    Why was bullying a acceptable tactic in Rice’s case? He is a child in a grown body doing the only thing that he knows how to get a reaction.

    Thank God for the people who have grown and understood, envy, prowess, and pride and their vial nature to hurt so many and turn from this and now act as clear pictures of maturity!

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