Rutgers 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.
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.
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.