TribLIVE

| Sports

 
Larger text Larger text Smaller text Smaller text | Order Photo Reprints

Former Robert Morris players defend fired Rutgers coach Rice

College Football Videos

Email Newsletters

Click here to sign up for one of our email newsletters.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013, 9:18 p.m.
 

A.J. Jackson was in Sewall Center at Robert Morris to hear former coach Mike Rice yell at his players. His voice rose every time someone made a mistake.

Their reaction?

“We'd yell right back at him,” Jackson said. “We respected one another.”

Rice was fired Wednesday as Rutgers' coach after ESPN's “Outside the Lines” aired video of him throwing basketballs at players, shoving them and using homophobic slurs. Jackson immediately called his friend.

“He said he was the Tiger Woods of the basketball world,” Jackson said of Rice. “He told me, ‘You know me. I am a very intense guy, but I did not intend to hurt anybody.' He sounded up and good about himself.

“What he really felt bad about was how it affected his family. He said his kids didn't go to school (Wednesday) because of it.”

Jackson, a Monessen graduate who played at Robert Morris from 2004-08 and was part of an athletic committee that interviewed and hired Rice in '07, admitted Rice was no saint.

“Were we cussed out? Yes, I'm not going to deny that,” said Jackson, now an assistant coach at First Assembly Christian School in Charlotte, N.C. “But it was never over the top.

“He never threw the ball (at players), but he would get mad and throw the ball or kick it (at a wall or an empty spot in the gym).”

Rice, who was suspended, fined and ordered to attend anger management classes after athletic director Tim Pernetti was given a copy of the tape by a former employee in November, addressed reporters outside his New Jersey home and apologized.

“As I stated three months ago after I watched the video how deeply regrettable those actions (were), I also stated I was going to try to work on changing. I think I've accomplished a lot of that,” said Rice, who was 44-51 in three years at Rutgers. “I can't say anything right now except I'm sorry.”

Before Rice arrived at Robert Morris, the Colonials had not been to the NCAA Tournament since 1992. Rice took the team there twice.

“A lot of kids didn't have the fire in them,” Jackson said. “But after we practiced the way we did and played the way we did, we got the fire.”

In only three seasons, Rice won 73 games and went 46-8 in the Northeast Conference.

“He's a tremendous coach,” Jackson said. “I was happy to be under him. I was a very selfish player when it came to scoring points (before going to college). He sat me down and said, ‘You are either going to do it my way, or you are going to be sitting next to me on the bench.' ”

When Rice was an assistant at Pitt, he recruited point guard Tray Woodall, who has several friends at Rutgers and Robert Morris.

“They tell me about how his coaching style is,” Woodall said, “and they have no problem because they are tough kids who know the coach only wants the best from them.”

Jimmy Langhurst played at Robert Morris and said Rice did use “colorful language.”

“What coach doesn't use colorful words?” he said. “Everything was like a family. He is the first one to pat you on the butt and say, ‘Nice job.' We were stronger because of him.”

Former Colonial Mezie Nwigwe defended Rice, tweeting: “Man, I don't care what the media (say). Rice was cool in my book.”

Tweeted teammate Jeremy Chappell: “All I know is we had bullies on our team we (weren't) backing down from nobody no team and we got that from #rice.”

Subscribe today! Click here for our subscription offers.

 

 

 


Show commenting policy

Most-Read Stories

  1. Bubble soccer bounces its way into Western Pa. sports venues
  2. Inside the Steelers: Rookie linebacker Chickillo continues to excel
  3. Police: Escaped Armstrong County inmate armed, dangerous homicide suspect
  4. Stocks bounce back from big losses to close relatively flat
  5. Pirates acquire Soria from Tigers
  6. Fashion FYI: RAW: Pittsburgh showcase features over 40 artists
  7. Turkey aims guns at Kurdish rebels
  8. NFL notebook: Brady’s lawsuit will be heard in New York
  9. Pirates notebook: Blanton introduced; Worley designated for assignment
  10. Passing the illegals buck
  11. Steelers notebook: Tomlin says Latrobe session won’t differ from normal practice