ShareThis Page

Gorman: For Rice, Central's Kiernan a sure shot

| Friday, Jan. 22, 2016, 6:27 p.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Central Catholic's Bobby Kiernan steals the ball during a game against North Hills on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in Ross.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Central Catholic's Bobby Kiernan looks to pass during a game against North Hills on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in Ross.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Central Catholic's Bobby Kiernan pulls down a rebound during a game against North Hills on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in Ross.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Central Catholic's Bobby Kiernan brings the ball upcourt during a game against North Hills on Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016, in Ross.

Bobby Kiernan spent his summer taking his basketball game to the next level at, of all places, the Jersey Shore.

The Central Catholic senior became a better competitor by playing in, of all things, AAU tournaments under the demanding direction, of all people, Mike Rice Jr.

Somehow, Kiernan used the circuit with the bad rap and the coach with the bad rep to become the best player for the Vikings, ranked No. 2 in Class AAAA.

“He's probably elevated his game in almost every area,” said Central coach Chuck Crummie, whom Kiernan also credits for his success. “He doesn't have to score to be valuable to us. His all-around game has improved. He's playing defense, rebounding, bringing the ball up the floor. His confidence is really solid.”

Kiernan credits much of his improvement to his time with Rice, who became known as a profanity-laced pariah in the college basketball world when videotapes of him berating and bullying his players at Rutgers became public in 2013.

“A lot of people would see clips on ESPN and say, ‘What are you doing? Are you insane?' ” Kiernan said. “My mom would hear comments in the stands.

“He said some terrible things at Rutgers, but I've never seen that person. I tell people a) He's the best coach I've ever met in my life; and b) If I ever felt personally insulted I would have packed up and left. It was a great experience. I wouldn't have changed it for the world.”

To the Kiernans, Rice is family.

Their relationship dates to the late 1970s at Duquesne, when Rice's father, Mike Sr., coached the Dukes and Kiernan's grandfather, the late political consultant Mossie Murphy, was one of their biggest boosters.

Mike Jr. and Mary (Murphy) Kiernan were friends, so it was natural that their sons would play summer basketball together when Mike coached at Robert Morris from 2007-10.

Bobby Kiernan played with Michael III on the Shore Shots AAU team and stayed with the Rice family around tourneys, where workouts and driveway battles occurred daily.

“There's barely any downtime. He's always got you on your toes,” Kiernan said. “Coach Rice teaches you how to be tough and how to battle. He's a competitor. I wanted to win every day in the driveway.”

Battling Michael, a point guard who will play at Franklin and Marshall, helped the 6-foot-1, 200-pound Kiernan become a better ball-handler and outside shooter after playing in the post.

“After we'd get done playing four or five games in a weekend, he'd be out in the driveway with my son yelling, ‘Let's get shots up,' ” Rice Jr. said. “He has a relentless work ethic, in the classroom and on the court. Who does that? He should be swimming in the pool or on the beach or playing video games. Not Bobby Kiernan.

“He probably has D-III talent, but in my eight years of being a D-I head coach he'd be a breath of fresh air. I tell coaches, ‘You're not going to find that.' ”

Nor are they going to find a player with a 5.15 grade-point average, which ranks first in Central's class. Kiernan makes it clear that his academics — he plans to study economics or (no surprise) political science — take priority over basketball.

Working with his son and Kiernan also proved beneficial to Rice Jr., who is back in basketball as the interim coach at The Patrick School in Elizabeth, N.J.

“Bobby's not a top-100 player, but when you're a basketball lifer you enjoy developing players,” Rice said. “I enjoy it more with Bobby because of how hard he works. Everything you say, he's going to give you everything he has. Right now, I'm having the time of my life. It's fun being back, being associated with such talented individuals.”

Even better that it was a hometown kid who helped Rice remember what it's all about.

Kevin Gorman is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at or via Twitter @KGorman_Trib.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using 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.