Rutgers University choosing Mike Rice from Robert Morris University of the Northeast Conference, one of the lower level division 1 conference in America, is something I and many others would not have imagined one year ago. Though the NEC has many fine coaches, making a jump from a low D1 program to the toughest conference in America is something that does not happen often. If it did Tom Green, the ex FDU Coach, would have left for a school like Notre Dame or Michigan after his various runs/games in the NCAA tournament years ago.
Mike Rice really showed he was a rising star in coaching when his team almost beat Villanova in the opening round of the 2010 NCAA tournament. He also proved his worth by turning around a program in Robert Morris that rarely experienced success in or out of NEC conference play. I really like Mike Rice and have since his days running Hoop Group Events. I even liked him as a player at Fordham University. I like the fact he is personable, bright, hard working, can coach, is approachable, and a true discipline guy despite being only 41 years old. So I wish him well and know that his heart will be in this job from day 1.
Now all that I said is fine for a person taking over at a program that is established. A program with a history of success such as Gonzaga, Pitt, and even Butler. All hired assistant coaches who took them even farther than they had ever been. But Rutgers is a different type of program. Rutgers is a school in need of a complete basketball overhaul from staff to facilities to marketing and promotions.
Is Mike Rice the person who can get this done? Will he demand a practice facility be completed in the next year or two? Will he demand that the RAC be renovated from score boards to sound system, to seating, to concessions, to a few luxury boxes, to locker rooms, and to a great weight training facility dedicated to basketball in The RAC? Or did he just sign a contract and left it at that. Anyone who understands Big East or high D1 basketball programs understands the need for great facilities to recruit great HS and JC players. They also understand the need for sold out crowds cheering and motivating current players while impressing potential recruits watching in person or on TV. I really Hope Mike Rice is on top of this. He deserves it, the players deserve it, and those loyal patient Rutgers Fans deserve it.
Personally I really thought Rutgers would fight and claw for a person who was a head coach on a higher level. I also thought Eddie Jordan would really be the choice and if he was and surrounded himself with a great staff it would have been a bases loaded home run. Rutgers should have worked harder to get him.
I thought Al Skinner would have been a great choice and a home run based on winning basketball games with talent equal to what Rutgers will get for the next few years. I doubt Rutgers will see any top 10 guys anytime soon and not because Rutgers is not worthy. As I have often said, those top ten guys often come with certain demands if you know what I mean. Rare exceptions do occur including kids like Kyrie Irving and even Tobias Harris, who just wanted good places to play. But most go to those who can deal with special needs. This is why Skinner would have been great. He would have won with some top 10 NJ kids and some top 10 NYC kids, and a few under the radar kids from North Carolina and other places.
Fran would have been an Ideal choice and a home run because right out of the box he would have had Rutgers in the homes of the very best and had the support of international basketball federations. I am sure he went in with some concerns about the direction Rutgers wanted the program to go. He probably asked the important questions that would dictate if Rutgers wanted a baby sitter to just hold the program down or a coach to take the program to a much higher level. He most likely asked about the facilities, upgrading The RAC, travel, budget, etc. He asked all that he needed to know in order to see if winning big could happen in Piscataway. I would bet this is what made him not be selected. Hard to turn down a very good candidate in Rice to get a very good candidate who demands improvement right away and just might cost you alot more contract wise as well.
Well the choice is made and Mike Rice, hopefully Red Tie and all, will lead Rutgers for the next 6 years. I wonder where they will be in 2013? Big East Champs? Middle of the pack? Bottom 5? Will the facilities be improved for the fans and recruits in the next 2 years? Will the marketing improve? Will there be sell outs at The RAC? Or will it be business as usual with Mike Must Go postings on various Rutgers Basketball Message Boards? I really hope Mike Rice does a outstanding job and The RAC comes alive again. Rutgers long suffering fans deserve it!
I am saddened that Tim Welch resigned at Hofstra without coaching one single game. Tim remains a great guy and has always been one of the good guys in college basketball. So interesting how folks judge each other without thinking about their own personal lives. I just hope Tim rebounds and gets another chance at coaching because he will be missed. I honestly feel Hofstra loses out on this deal because Tim really stepped back to coach at Hofstra of the CAA. I feel he could have gotten much bigger jobs if he waited. Maybe Hofstra will attempt to steal another high level coach like Al Skinner who grew up less than 10 miles from the Hofstra campus.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
Unless I missed something the two ex Seton Hall players accused of armed robbery have not gone to trial. Often there are two sides to a story and people often judge based on the first version. If those young men did indeed randomly rob fellow students they should be punished. If there is more we need to wait before passing judgement. What seems to be is not always what it is, as they say in my old neighborhood in New York City. So yes I hope for the best for those young men and hope things work out best for them one way or another.