In the recent events that occurred at Rutgers University, college basketball fans are left to wonder, how many other coaches are like Mike Rice? How many other coaches in the country bully their players verbally and physically? Is this a common thing? It’s not.
Yes, coaches will ride their star players, egos will clash, however it’s understood that it’s for the greater good of the players and team. What Mike Rice did to his team was unacceptable and Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti’s handling of the situation was horrifying.
Over the past couple of days I’ve spoken to my fellow media colleagues and for the most part they agree that what Rice did was irrational to say the least, however in talking to one friend who shall remain nameless, he told me, “I don’t have a problem with the language that Rice used, I’m sure other coaches say similar things, it’s not a big deal.” My response: “Ask Joseph and Jane Clementi whether or not it’s a big deal.” They’re son [Tyler Clementi, 18] was supposed to graduate next spring, but instead was bullied because he was a homosexual and jumped off the George Washington bridge.
Pernetti knew what was going on and didn’t fire Rice when he had the chance. To keep a coach on staff that would spew homophobic slurs in the same institution in which a student took his life symbolizes the hypocritical attitude that the university displayed. Rutgers finally stepped up last week and finally fired both Rice and Pernetti.
I’ve covered the St. John’s men’s basketball team for two years now as the play by play voice on WSJU Radio, and I can count the number of times that I’ve questioned Steve Lavin’s philosophy or in-game strategy. Is Lavin a perfect coach? No. However, every time that I would speak to one of his players I’d get the sense that this team was a tight nit group.
In the two years around the team, the coaching staff rarely ever says a negative thing about their team. Heck, I spoke to Lavin after he suspended D’Angelo Harrison and the coach had nothing but kind words about the situation.
Steve Lavin doesn’t throw basketballs at players’ heads or shout homophobic slurs. At one press conference when asked if there can be more than one leader on this team, Lavin named every second year player; he even named senior Jamal White.
Lavin’s teams will leave you on the edge of your seat. They’ll take you to the highest of highs just as they’ll take you to rock bottom, but Lavin has a plan for the future and has a team that appreciates him on and off the court, just like we should.