Mike Rice Followup

The responses to my post on the firing of Mike Rice (April 18th) were varied but most seemed to have questions about the decision.  There was also comment on the sharp line between being a tough coach and being a sadistic one.   

Sooooo — if you were Tim Pernetti, the Athletic Director of Rutgers (who was just lauded for getting Rutgers into the Big Ten), would you have fired Mike Rice?  Hmmmm??  Tim Pernetti did not fire Mike Rice.  He suspended him for 3 games and fined him $50,000.   But after the media got hold of the story, Rice was fired.   Then Pernetti was fired for not being “tough” on Mike Rice.   Was that right?   If you say “yes,” I would be critical of your decision unless you know the background of this story.   

When the videos of Mike Rice’s antics (antics which players said were rare) came to light last year, Tim Pernetti consulted the Legal Department of Rutgers – and Human Resources – to get their input.   An independent investigator recommended the suspension and fine.  John Wolf, the General Counsel of Rutgers agreed.  Pernetti thought the suspension and fine were enough.  Legal agreed.  HR agreed.  The independent investigator agreed.   What happens?  Mike Rice was suspended.  And fined.  But — our wonderful media got this story.  And smelled news.   Played it up big.  And made Mike Rice and Tim Pernetti bad guys.  Scapegoats.  The media didn’t give a hoot about background.  And truth often gets in the way.   So Mike Rice was fired.   And then Tim Pernetti was fired – even though he acted promptly and went through proper channels.   John Wolf the General Counsel then resigned.  And Rutgers is in the doghouse.  Many of the righteous ones “tsk tsk.”  But they never heard the whole story.  And perhaps don’t care. 

So what does this say about us?   The notions of fair play, reason and trying to do the right thing?   What does it say about giving a fellow human a second chance?  The words and actions of Mike Rice were not defensible but when an oversight consortium makes a reasoned call on what should be done, should their decision be given deference?  Or should our highly-biased media serve as our nation’s appellate court?  I don’t often give editorials but this post probably qualifies as one . . . .      

The Firing of Mike Rice

The slurs are one thing. They are degrading, insulting and unnecessary.  Mike Rice should be on the carpet for that.  Fired?  I dunno.   For words?  Should one be able to say “I’m sorry – it won’t happen again?”   And be forgiven?  You ask forgiveness on Sunday at Church or on Saturday at Temple.  And you are forgiven.  You get out of prison and you’re back in society.   You are rehabilitated.  But it seems like if you say the wrong word, the political correctness police condemn you forever.   

Mike Rice also pushed players.  Threw basketballs at their legs.  Yelled at the players.  We’re not talking the violence and mayhem you see in the NHL (“Number 43 – 2 minute penalty for high sticking and attempted murder“) or the disgusting displays of savagery and bloodthirst one sees in ultimate fighting.  As to coaches, I think about Bobby Knight — not the most reserved of coaches when dealing with players, fans, referees or the media.    I also think of my high school football coaches who shall remain nameless — who got in your face, turning purple with rage.  Grabbing, shoving, swearing, pushing and so on.  I think too about the 6th grade lesson I learned from Mrs. S (see post of November 23, 2011).  I had pushed Tim H. in the girl’s bathroom and held the door closed.  Mrs. S grabbed my shoulder, spun me around and slapped me so hard my ears were ringing.  Yet it was an epiphanal moment.  A Damascus Road conversion.  She wasn’t a coach — she was a teacher.  And by darnit, she sure taught and I sure learned. . . . .  So do players.  It is interesting to hear some of the Rutgers’ players actually defending Mike Rice.  Listen to their words. . . .     

For me, the operative question should be what crosses the line for a coach? Obviously coaches – and players – want to win. But sometimes if players need extra “encouragement” is it okay to provide some tough love?  Yelling, screaming and swearing?  Pushing?  Tossing a basketball?   I don’t like it but is it wrong given context?  You tell me. . . . . .