Former Robert Morris players defend fired Rutgers coach Rice
By Jerry DiPaola
Published: 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.
“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.”
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Garden Q&A: Firecracker vine OK for trellis?
- Meat prices drain barbecue budgets
- Starkey: Penguins’ arrogance astounding
- Matt Calvert’s goal in double OT evens series for Blue Jackets
- NFL notebook: Pryor will be cut if he’s not traded
- Penguins’ Gibbons scores twice but leaves with apparent injury
- Pair of Braun homers spells defeat for Pirates
- One dead, one wounded in shooting at Chartiers party
- North Versailles, Murrysville families still waiting for report on 2011 chopper crash that killed couple
- Draftees’ longevity key for NFL success
- Biertempfel: Kendall’s book offers inside look at life in majors