Ex-Rutgers coach goes public with his past

Sam Isdale, Sports Columnist

Sam Isdale, Sports Columnist

Just about two weeks ago former Rutgers head coach Mike Rice appeared on ABC Television Network in his first television interview since being fired for physically and verbally abusing his players during practice.

Rice agreed to break his silence by doing a sit down with “Good Morning America” anchor, Robin Roberts for an edition of “20/20.” The interview, which aired on Nov. 8, was his first televised attempt to own up to his vicious actions towards his players.

It was last December when Rice was suspended for three games and fined $50,000 after Rutgers athletic department officials watched the abuse on video. The footage caught Rice screaming at players, pushing them around, grabbing them, kicking them and actually whipping basketballs at them. Rice created a big scandal in the sports world and it’s about time he talks about it.

During the interview, Rice tells Robin Roberts, and the rest of America, that he’s a changed man. He even aspires to get back into coaching again. Are there programs that are going to forgive and forget? I’m not quite sure.

When asked if he believes he has anger management issues, Rice told Roberts, “That’s what a lot of people ask, that’s the biggest misnomer or mis-fact. Because if you watched practice … I would lose self control at times. But two minutes after that … I’m high-fiving and cheering. [It] could be the same person that I did that to, I would be chest-bumping [him] literally two minutes later.”

I can’t speak for Rice, but if he didn’t have some sort of anger problem how did it get to the point where he was hitting his players in the head with basketballs and kicking them? I’m not calling him a liar, but I think he’s trying to make it look a little better than it was. Yeah, maybe he high-fived some of the guys after making a good play, but when they made a bad play or did something he wasn’t happy about he let his emotions consume him and he chose to make very poor decisions.

I believe in second chances and I believe in forgiveness, but I’d be surprised if Rice gets the opportunity to coach again in the future. I have no evidence that he is or isn’t a changed man, but hiring Rice as a coach can be risky and can also become a liability.

When Roberts asked Rice how he can reconcile people who associate the videos with him he said, “By trying to be the best parent, the best coach, the best teacher, to get as much out as humanly possible to young coaches about self-control, about boundaries, about learning from your mistakes.”

I do appreciate his apologies and his regrets, but I also wonder why he waited so long for a television interview. He lost his job at Rutgers six months ago, so why did it take so long to come out with a sincere apologetic interview? When he first saw the video he said his reactions were ones of embarrassment, shock and sadness.

I was very pleased to hear that Rice reached out to the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN). A girl told him that he was no better than a bully that once made her cry.

“That was a hard lesson learned that’s for sure,” said Rice. “There is going to be a different message. There is going to be a different Coach Rice.”

“And again, it’s not about making excuses. It’s about learning from them. It’s about sharing those mistakes with other coaches, and hopefully one day, if I do want to coach again, having an opportunity … That’s what it’s about.”

His apologies and ownership for what his did were necessary, but even if Mike Rice is different, we’ll see if there will ever be “coach” in front of his name again.

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