Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice fired
Rutgers basketball Coach Mike Rice is out, according to an ESPN report.
The sports network reported that Rice was fired Wednesday after videotape emerged of the coach throwing basketballs and hurling verbal abuse at his players.
A former Rutgers employee showed this video to the school's athletic department leaders months ago and the school decided to retain Rice.
The video shows Rice hurling basketballs at players' legs, and even their heads; grabbing, pushing, kicking and punching them, along with screaming homophobic slurs at them.
Video obtained by ESPN's "Outside the Lines" shows Rice going off the handle and abusing his players during practices from 2010 through 2012, according to the sports network. The footage surfaced after Eric Murdock, who was Rice's director of player development until he was fired, showed it to Rutgers Athletic Department officials.
In an interview with ESPN, Murdock says the abuse caused several players to leave.
"To see your coach physically putting his hands on player, physically kicking players, firing balls at players from point blank range. The verbal abuse, the belittling, I was like in total shock that this guy wasn't fired immediately on the spot," said Murdock.
On ESPN Tuesday, the school's athletic director was asked why he didn't fire Rice immediately:
"The moment that we became of aware of the video on November, when it was presented to us by Eric and his lawyers, we immediately commenced an independent investigation into the matter. We talked to everybody in the program. We evaluated the situation and we suspended Mike in a more significant way that coaches have been suspended in recent memory," said Tim Pernetti.
"I think any athletic director who spends time in practice sees things in practices that concern them. And what you have to do is you have to deal with those things as soon as you see them. What I would tell you is that there were incidents with language that concerned me early on, but that was an easy conversation where I was able to explain very clearly to Mike as I would do with any other coach what my concerns were, and do my job to remind our coaches about the environment in and around our student athletes and what our Rutgers standard is when we hire our coaches. But yes, there have been some things along the way," he added.
With the video going viral, the pressure was on the university to fire Rice.
Even Lebron James weighing in on Twitter, saying, "If my son played for Rutgers or a coach like that he would have some real explaining to do and I'm still gone whoop on him afterwards. C'mon."
The firing was also a hot topic on sports talk radio across the country. On 1070 The Fan in Indianapolis, things were no different.
Radio host Michael Grady discussed the video with his listeners.
"Which is dumb, considering we were watching him throw basketballs at players' heads," Grady said on the show. "Did the coach clean up his behavior after he was disciplined? If so, then the pressure from the outside media is ridiculous."
Local basketball players also had quick and decisive reaction to the coach's behavior.
Cory Majors has years of experience, both as a basketball player and now a coach in several youth leagues, including the Fishers YMCA.
"I think the coach is totally out of line. There's no reason for this type of abuse," said Majors.
Seeing basketball coaches lose their cool is nothing new, as fans of Indiana University's Bobby Knight know. The former IU coach was known for his hot temper and throwing chairs. But it was video showing him with his hands around a player's neck that led to his dismissal at Indiana.
"Maybe I grabbed Neil Reed by the shoulder, maybe I took him by the back of the neck. I mean, I don't know. I don't remember everything that I've ever done in practice," Knight said of the incident.
"Throwing a football or basketball at any part of the body other than to make a play is unacceptable," Majors said. "It's true some coaches get rough, but they don't do what he did. That's way too far."
Back in the studio at The Fan, Conrad Brunner reacted as a parent with children in sports.
"It's your job as a parent to see where the line is and, when the line is crossed, step in and remove your kid from the situation. That's your job," Brunner said.
Now the question looms. Will Rice face the same fate as Knight? For the time being, Pernetti says Rice can stay provided there are no more incidents.