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‘Old Way’ or Wrong way? Local coaches weigh in on Mike Rice

April 5, 2013

PLYMOUTH — The footage has gone “viral” on the Internet, and many have seen the tirades of now former Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice.
Rice was fired by the university after being caught on camera verbally and physically abusing players in practice. The repercussions of his actions have also led to the firing of Rutgers Athletic Director Tim Pernetti.
Rice’s abuse of players led to a polarizing discussion of just how much is too much when it comes to being demanding of players and led some to say that this sort of thing, “...happened all the time in the old days.”
ESPN quoted former Georgetown coach and Hall of Famer John Thompson — considered an “old school” tough love kind of coach — as saying, “That’s not the old way, that’s the wrong way...That’s child abuse.”
One local coach agrees.
“I played for coaches and coached with coaches who were considered ‘old school’ and I have never witnessed anything close to this as a player or a coach,” said Plymouth head basketball coach Ryan Bales. “I have seen coaches get frustrated and angry with players, but calling them inappropriate names and throwing basketballs at them was never an option.”
“That is not to say that I haven’t lost my cool before because I have in practice and in games,” he added. “But I feel his actions were disrespectful towards his players at an extreme level.”
“I really don’t even know how to react to what I saw,” said LaVille head basketball coach Michael Edison. “The only word I can even think to use is shocked. Shocked and disappointed. I know that I’ve never been a part of anything like that. I’ve never been anywhere where anything remotely like that took place.”
“I definitely understand him trying to get his kids to play with more fire and work harder, but he was out of line with his methods. I am the first guy in line to say that I think times have changed in coaching in terms of interaction with players on the practice floor,” said John Glenn head coach Travis Hannah. “That being said, I would be shocked if that type of behavior took place in very many gyms at any time. No matter how ‘hard-nosed’ a coach is, the really good ones are and always have been in it to better the lives of those they come into contact with. Sometimes ‘tough love’ is necessary, and most of the time kids and parents, at some point, realize that. I would have a hard time classifying what we saw from Coach Rice as tough or as love.”
Bales says that — in his opinion — a coach’s job involves modeling the kind of behavior they expect from their players on the floor.
“As coaches, we expect our players to keep their composure to the best of their ability at all times,” he said. “We need to model proper behavior for them.”
Bales thinks it even goes a step further.
“I would also say head coaches need to model proper behavior for assistant coaches,” he said. “It appears his assistant recently resigned as well, and it seems that he shared some common behavior traits of his head coach (language, throwing the ball at players, losing his cool) and some of that may be a result of what has been tolerated and modeled by the head coach.”
Hannah echoed Bales’ feelings.
“I feel bad for the players in that program that were exposed to that form of coaching because I think that they were cheated out of what involvement in athletics should be,” he said. “I also feel bad for the coaching profession because we are now seeing an assistant in that program resign because he was following the lead of coach Rice and his behaviors. As a head coach, part of your job is to develop young coaches and give them guidance in becoming a head coach.”
Hannah went a step further.
“Maybe the saddest part of this whole thing is that it took a disgruntled person associated with the program that was looking for a pay-out — my opinion — to come forward and expose the whole thing,” said Hannah. “Kids have been exposed to this since Coach Rice came on a couple of years ago and not one player has spoken out, not one assistant coach said anything, and obviously the school’s administrators had no idea what was going on in their own facilities.”
“It’s really tough for our profession,” said Edison. “The unfortunate thing is that a lot of people will think that all coaches are like that and lump us all together. It’s terribly unfortunate that (Rice) felt he had to do that. We’ve all been upset and frustrated with how to motivate our players to be their best. But I have to say nothing like that has ever come into my mind, and I can’t believe it has with many other coaches either.”
While Rice may have gotten a proper punishment for his crime, like most in the profession, the local coaches hope there is a positive that can be taken somehow.
“It sounds like he knows the game, but hopefully in his time away he can make some improvements to his coaching style. and he can work on also earning the trust of others. especially his family who sound as if they are embarrassed by his actions,” said Bales. “I like the fact he took responsibility on camera and apologized, didn’t make excuses, and vowed to improve. That is at least a step in the right direction, but his actions down the road will ultimately prove whether he was sincere with his words.”
“I think this is a very sad situation for basketball and college athletics,” said Hannah. “I don’t know Coach Rice, but hopefully this experience will be one of those tough experiences that he grows from and becomes a better person because of it.”

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