Abusive Rutgers Coach Mike Rice Fired – Dan Hurley could replace Him

mike-rice-firedRutgers basketball hasn’t exactly had the prettiest of records over the past several years. And things recently got even uglier when it was revealed how badly former head coach Mike Rice was treating his players.

Just one day after ESPN’s Outside the Lines aired video footage of Rice pushing, hitting, kicking, cursing and throwing basketballs at his players, the 44-year-old was fired. Aside from all of the physical abuse, Rice drew considerable heat for calling players “f***ing f**gots” and “f***ing fairies.” You can see all of this wild, psychotic behavior from the video below, which covers basketball practices ranging from 2010-2012:

This kind of abuse is rarely seen at any level – let alone a Division I basketball program. And what’s bad is that Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti didn’t see any of this as a fireable offense when video footage was brought to his attention four months ago.

Instead, Pernetti merely suspended Rice for three games and fined him $50,000 in a move that was shrouded in mystery. Pernetti discussed his questionable decision with the following statement:

I am responsible for the decision to attempt a rehabilitation of Coach Rice,” Pernetti said in a statement. “Dismissal and corrective action were debated in December and I thought it was in the best interest of everyone to rehabilitate, but I was wrong. Moving forward, I will work to regain the trust of the Rutgers community.

tim-pernetti-mike-riceWhat’s especially puzzling about Tim Pernetti’s decision to merely suspend Rice for three games – rather than fire him – is that the coach failed to turn the Scarlet Knights around.

Rutgers generated a lot of buzz when they hired Rice in 2010. After all, the Pennsylvania native was fresh off guiding Robert Morris to back-to-back NCAA tournament appearances, three Northeast Conference championships, and a 73-31 record in three years.

However, he definitely failed to bring the same success to Piscataway, New Jersey. Rice compiled a 44-51 record from 2010-2013 and was especially unsuccessful in the Big East, where his teams went 16-38 over three seasons. This past year saw the Scarlet Knights finish a disappointing 15-16 overall and 5-13 in the Big East (12th place).

If there’s anything positive to take from Rice’s inexcusable behavior towards his players, it’s that he is at least facing the press. An embarrassed Rice told ESPN the following:

I’ve let so many people down. My players, my administration, Rutgers University, the fans. My family, who’s sitting in their house just huddled around because of the fact that their father was an embarrassment to them. It’s troubling, but I will at some time, maybe I’ll try to explain it, but right now, there’s no explanation for what’s on those films. Because there is no excuse for it. I was wrong. I want to tell everybody who’s believed in me that I’m deeply sorry.

dan-hurleyWith Mike Rice out of the picture, Rutgers has immediately begun searching for a new coach. And several sources are already reporting that Rhode Island coach Dan Hurley is the top candidate.

Hurley, who’s the son of Hall of Fame high school coach Bob Hurley and the brother of former Duke/Sacramento Kings player Bobby Hurley, would definitely be an intriguing pick here. He has lots of ties in New Jersey after guiding St. Benedict’s Preparatory School to a 223-21 record over nine seasons. Dan also coached at Wagner, where he took over a 5-win team and went 38-23 in two seasons.

This past season saw Hurley guide the Rhode Island Rams to a dismal 8-21 record. However, it’s worth noting that he’s done a solid recruiting job in his lone season and inherited a 7-24 team. That said, Dan Hurley has been a program builder throughout his career. But just why would he want to go to Rutgers – a school which is now known as the national embarrassment that let a wacko keep his job four months too long.

The answer is all about geography since Hurley is a New Jersey guy, born and raised. He wasn’t exactly thrilled about leaving his family in NJ for Rhode Island in the first place; but hey, it was a Division I job. This being said, he can now return to his home state at a place that could really use him.

Besides, it’s not like any of the nation’s big-name coaching candidates want to come here. First off, Rice made $750,000 this past year, which is about $1 million off what it takes to attract a top-level candidate. Just based on the money alone, Rutgers isn’t going to lure Shaka Smart away from VCU or Jay Wright away from Villanova. Furthermore, why would any top coaching prospect want to work at a less prestigious school for half the salary they could get somewhere else?

Danny Hurley is as good as it gets for Rutgers, so it’s no wonder why they’re trying to lure him away from Rhode Island. And if he doesn’t come, it looks like Pernetti will be forced to take a shot in the dark on a small school coaching candidate, or ante up more money than $750k annually.

Why did Minnesota fire Tubby Smith?

tubby-smith-minnesota-firedLast night was all about admiring and celebrating Florida Gulf Coast’s historic run to the Sweet 16. The Eagles topped San Diego State to become the first 15 seed to make the round of 16. Of course for every FGC, which is riding a eurphoric wave into Arlington, Texas, there are dozens of teams that fall short of expectations.

The Minnesota Golden Gophers are one of these teams since they fired head coach Tubby Smith after six seasons on the job. The 61-year-old exits Minneapolis with a 124-81 overall record and a 46-62 Big-10 record.

What’s surprising about the firing is that Smith led Minnesota to its best NCAA tournament finish since 1996-97 – when the Golden Gophers made the Final Four, only to have this season wiped out by academic fraud. Sure they were ousted in the second round by Florida this year; but still, this is the best they’ve done in over a decade and a half. So the question is, why did Minnesota fire Tubby Smith?

This question seems especially hard to answer since the university signed him to a three-year contract extension in July, after Tubby guided the Golden Gophers to 23 wins and an NIT runner-up finish. However, it may not be so hard to figure out when you look at how Smith’s teams have performed once February starts.

tubby-smith-minnesota-fired-1This season was a perfect example because Minnesota bolted out to a 15-1 record and was quickly climbing the AP Top 25. However, they suffered through Big-10 play and went 6-12 over the remainder of the season. Their 20-12 record turned out to be just good enough to grab a controversial 11th-seed NCAA tournament bid.

From here, it looked like Tubby might have saved his job with a first round victory over 6th-seeded UCLA, which coincidentally also fired their coach. However, the Golden Gophers looked largely noncompetitive throughout most of their 78-64 second round loss to the Florida Gators.

Rather than go through another collapsing season with Smith, Minnesota chose to buy out his remaining contract for what could be worth up to $2.5 million. So can somebody else succeed where former national champion Tubby Smith has failed? Let’s discuss the prospects as well as who else Minnesota basketball will be eyeing as a head coach.

Pros and Cons

The University of Minnesota isn’t exactly USC or Miami when it comes to weather and scenery. This state sees heavy snowfall in the winter and temperatures that commonly hit below-20 or worse. So right off the bat, the basketball program has this working against them for out-of-state recruits.

tubby-smith-minnesota-fired-2Another problem with Minnesota is that they’re up against conference giants like Indiana, Michigan State, Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan and Illinois. So this team is very rarely going to be at the top of the Big-10 – let alone a national powerhouse. And this also works against them when trying to land elite recruits from around the county.

But there are definitely some positive aspects to Minnesota basketball too. And they begin with top facilities, a strong desire to win, and, most importantly, money to spend.

Another big benefit to coaching at Minnesota would be that it’s the only Division I school in the state. Considering that the Land of 10,000 Lakes produces a lot of solid players every year, this is definitely a major plus. But is it enough to intrigue a sought-after, up-and-coming coach?

Who will replace Tubby Smith at Minnesota?

The rumored frontrunner for the Golden Gophers job is VCU coach Shaka Smart. He’s remained one of the country’s hottest candidates after guiding VCU to the Final Four in 2011, and taking the Rams to back-to-back Sweet 16’s. The reason why Minnesota has a chance with Smart is because their current AD, Norwood Teague, hired him at VCU. So the debate here will be if a previous relationship is enough to lure Smart away.

VCU v MichiganOdds are that it isn’t, especially considering that the 35-year-old has turned down several better jobs – including a $2.5 million offer from Illinois. And even if Smart decides to stay in Richmond, Virginia, he’ll receive a $1.36 million salary that includes plenty of bonuses.

Assuming he’s out of the picture, there are still plenty of other quality options such as Marquette’s Buzz Williams, former UCLA coach Ben Howland, and FGC coach Andy Enfield. Williams is being tabbed because of a good relationship with Teague, and a bad relationship with Marquette AD Larry Williams. Enfield is obviously a hot pick because of what we discussed before with FGC’s Sweet 16 run. And Howland had plenty of success at UCLA before succumbing to high expectations and a large number of transfers.

Whoever Minnesota ends up with, it’ll definitely be an accomplished coach who’s capable of leading them to success.