After video surfaced on ESPN's 'Outside the Lines' yesterday of Mike Rice verbally and physically attacking players at a Rutgers basketball practice, there was a large reaction across social media of people demanding that the former Robert Morris coach be fired.
Among the chatter on Twitter were the voices of several former Colonials players defending the man who they played for in college.
The Post-Gazette interviewed several of those players today to get their take on the situation surrounding Rice, who was fired today by the university after three seasons and a 16-38 record in Big East play.
Here are some highlights of what they had to say:
Derek Coleman, former Robert Morris PG
*Note: Coleman didn't play for Rice, but was around the program while he was the coach there
“I’ve seen him portrayed as a monster and I don’t think that’s fair. I know him personally and he’s a great guy. He’s very passionate about the game of basketball and in his coaching, it comes out."
“That’s not how he is. Because he’s passionate, he’s very aggressive. He likes to coach guys that have a tough attitude about them. That’s why when he was at Robert Morris they were so successful – because he had his stars in the program a no-nonsense, no-back-down kind of mentality to whoever they play.”
“Coach Rice would give you the shirt off his back. They’re not showing him grabbing guys and saying ‘That’s what I’m talking about,’ ‘Great job’ or ‘That’s what I’m looking for.’ They’re not showing any of that. They’re just showing all the negative stuff.”
“I don’t like that they’re trying to make him out to be a monster. He’s a great guy, he’s a great coach."
Mezie Nwigwe, Robert Morris guard (2006-10)
On if RMU's practices would ever mirror those seen on film at Rutgers: “Nah, it never got that extreme."
“The most he would ever do was throw a basketball, but not aim it at us.”
“He sometimes goes overboard, but he never means to hurt anyone like the media’s trying to make it look like."
“It was never that bad with us. All they’re showing are highlights, that's all it is. If they put together all of the good things he did, they could make him look like an angel."
On if his perceived change in behavior had to do with his new, higher-stress job at Rutgers: “Being at Rutgers, he probably wanted to change the program around so quick that he probably got frustrated a lot.”
“Ego always takes a big part in things like that. I'm sure being in the Big East, you have a big ego, especially when you have a coach coming from a smaller school. Sometimes you don’t want to listen to them as much.”
Jimmy Langhurst, Robert Morris guard (2006-10)
“I think they’re taking a few sentences out of a big paragraph in the end. Obviously he’s a fiery coach, that’s how he was at Robert Morris, that’s just who he is. When you think of Mike Rice, you think of intensity, you think of toughness, you think of all that.”
“Obviously people don’t know Mike Rice as I know Mike Rice and my other teammates know Mike Rice. I was in the trenches with coach Rice at Robert Morris for three years. I know how he is off the court and I know how he is on the court. In the video, for people who don’t know him, he’s the bad guy, he’s the villain. But for people that do know him, they know that’s not him. That didn’t happen at Robert Morris at all.”
“I think you know what you’re getting into. He’s going to demand whatever he can get out of you. He’s going to make you the best player he can. He’s going to push you, that’s all it is, he’s going to push you to the limit. He’s going to get the best out of you and I think he did that well at Robert Morris. Again, I’m only speaking for Robert Morris because that’s where I’ve known him from. I can’t speak on the Rutgers side.”
“I can’t say anything bad about the guy from here. He’s done a lot for us, for the program and the university. He could take the shirt off his back and he’d give it to somebody for sure. That’s how he was with our team and we would do the same for him.”
Robert Morris did not makes coaches, players or athletic department officials available today for comment.