This past week, a video surfaced of practice sessions involving a division 1 basketball school Rutgers. In the video, the head coach was seen running around and acting like a complete maniac, shoving, screaming and throwing balls at players along with using language that would make a good many sailors blush. The coach, Mike Rice, apparently used several anti-gay references in his tirades and that seemed to be the final straw in determining his fate.
Being someone who has played both high school and college basketball, my immediate reaction was why would anyone want to play for some lunatic like Rice? I was amazed that many players are still with the program. I mean, what kind of fun would the game be if your coach was constantly abusing and insulting you as well as throwing balls towards your direction? If I wanted to have balls thrown at me, I would join a dodge ball class!! In this day and age of high maintenance and fragile players, it is amazing no player snapped and went after Rice. I cannot believe that did not happen.
This type of coaching behavior probably happens at many other colleges and is not reported. There really is a very fine line as to how far a coach should go before he crosses that line. Many sports especially basketball involve being mentally prepared and some players simply need a good chewing out to get them going. I certainly do not have a problem with that but is it really necessary to shove a guy or hurl a ball at him because he failed to switch on defense? That type of extreme behavior is totally not right and any coach who does that should be at the very least, reprimanded.
A good coach knows exactly how to motivate his players and each player is different. Player A may respond much better than Player B when the coach gets in his face and yells at him. No two players are alike and some respond better to criticism than others. From my experiences, I believe too much yelling and criticism is actually counterproductive for a player. Sure, installing the fear of getting yelled at will motivate most players to hustle after that loose ball or pay attention but it may force players to become timid and afraid of making mistakes on the court. A player who is uptight and hesitant on the basketball court will never play well. I strongly believe in praising players and creating a positive environment so a player will actually develop confidence in his game.
The school was absolutely justified in firing Rice for his conduct. There is no way anyone can defend Rice for what he was doing on the videos. When a coach starts grabbing and physically abusing players, then action must be taken. One of the greatest coaches of all time, Bobby Knight got fired for grabbing a player around the throat and Rice certainly deserves the same fate as Knight. When a coach starts using those tactics, it is time for him or her to go. There is no place in society for leaders like coaches to be treating young people like that. What kind of examples are they setting for these kids? A college coach in many cases is kind of like a fatherly figure to many players. They can have a big time influence on a player, not for just the time they are on the team, but for life.
Rice is still a young guy who will certainly get a second chance. He has had some success in his young career but his reputation has really been tainted by this episode. I doubt many of today’s top-notch players will want to play for a guy like Rice unless he dramatically changes his ways. Imagine when his team goes on the road for a game and the reception he will get from the home team’s student section. I can just see some wise cracking student post a sign “Beware of flying basketballs”. Coaches like Rice eventually get what they deserve. John Wooden never had to act like a maniac to get results and neither should any other college coach.