NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Rutgers University athletic director Tim Pernetti announced today that head men’s basketball coach Mike Rice would be terminated for the odd way he expressed his undying love and affection for his team.
“Coach Rice was absolutely committed to this team,” says Pernetti, “almost to the point of obsession. There were many nights when you’d see him driving slowly past the athletic dorms, like he was checking up on the players. It was starting to get kind of creepy.”
Rice, whose son Ray starred in football for the school before moving on to the NFL, where he won this past Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens, just completed his third season as coach of the Scarlet Knights, who finished with a 15-16 record. But no matter the record, nothing was good enough for the demanding coach.
“He would yell at us, calling us fat and lazy,” says an unidentified player, “and tell us that no matter what we ever do, we would never be anything without him. He made us feel useless, and believe that no one else would ever want us.”
Pernetti says the breaking point came this past December, when a drunken Rice accused his team of secretly communicating via text message with their previous coach, Fred Hill. Players allege that Rice questioned whether they pretended he was Hill during practices and games.
Soon after news of his firing broke, officials at Robert Morris University, where Rice coached prior to his hiring by Rutgers, revealed that the school had been forced to file a restraining order against the coach toward the end of his tenure there. They also confirmed reports that the basketball coach’s office has received frequent calls where there was nothing on the other line except heavy, ominous breathing.
“(Rice) asked for one more chance, promised he’d change,” says Pernetti, “But we’ve been through this too many times. We truly hope he gets the help he needs and wish nothing but the best for him. But it’s time to think about ourselves now. We’re gonna try to be without a coach for a while.”