Mike Rice

Rutgers head coach Mike Rice suspended three games, fined $50,000 for inappropriate behavior (UPDATED)

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Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti announced on Thursday afternoon that the school was suspending head coach Mike Rice three games without pay and fining him $50,000 due to a violation of athletic department policy.

Inappropriate behavior and language were the reasons cited by Rutgers, and according to Brendan Prunty of the Newark Star-Ledger, the school found out that Rice threw basketballs at players’ heads during a practice in either his first or second season on the job.

“It’s a difficult situation, certainly,” Pernetti said during a conference call on Thursday according to the Star-Ledger. “I was made aware of some things in the last couple of weeks. We commenced a pretty thorough and lengthy investigation and this was the result of that investigation.

“There was obviously some things that are not to the Rutgers standard that we evaluated.”

Associate head coach David Cox will coach the Scarlet Knights (7-2) in games against UAB, Howard and Rider. Rice will return for the team’s Big East opener January 2 at Syracuse.

In addition to Pernetti’s statement Rice released a statement of his own:

“Since becoming a coach at the age of 21, I have taken great pride in not only helping young men learn the game of basketball but also in teaching them about character, respect and hard work,” said Rice. “To the extent that my conduct has ever been in contrast with those principles, I have failed my players – and myself – and I take full responsibility for my actions and accept the terms of my suspension. I will learn from my mistakes and I will become a better coach, teacher and role model.

“I sincerely apologize to our players, both past and present; to our incredible assistant coaches and staff; to President Barchi, the Board of Governors and Director of Athletics Tim Pernetti for their belief in me; to the University faculty, staff and student body who represent the greatness of RU and to our Scarlet Knight fans who provide so much support to our teams,” Rice continued. “My commitment to becoming a better man and coach is only matched by my passion to make Rutgers basketball a great source of pride for the community.”

Rice has been one of the more passionate coaches in college basketball for some time now, dating back to his years spent at Robert Morris where he led the Colonials to two NCAA tournament appearances.

But clearly Rutgers has seen something that needs changing, hence the suspension. And it isn’t as if the program hasn’t been down this road with a head coach before, as Fred Hill eventually lost his job for behavioral reasons.

Hill got in trouble at a Rutgers baseball game (his father Fred Hill Sr. has led the Rutgers program for nearly three decades), ignoring Pernetti’s orders to not attend a series between the Scarlet Knights and Pittsburgh. The end result was Hill being fired, opening the door for Rutgers to hire Rice.

With the school’s past dealings with its head coach’s behavior in mind, it’s good for both Rutgers and Rice (even though he’s lighter in the wallet as a result) to address this situation now.

Raphielle also writes for the NBE Basketball Report and can be followed on Twitter at @raphiellej.

Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament chances take a major blow in loss to No. 16 SMU

SMU guard Nic Moore (11) shoots over Gonzaga forward Kyle Wiltjer (33) during the first half of an NCAA college basketball game, Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Dallas. (AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
(AP Photo/Jim Cowsert)
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Nic Moore scored 18 of his 25 points in the second half and added 11 assists as No. 16 SMU knocked off Gonzaga in Moody Coliseum on Saturday night, 69-60.

The Zags got 20 points and 16 boards from Domantas Sabonis, but Kyle Wiltjer scored just four points and shot 2-for-17 from the floor.

It wasn’t pretty.

And it may have been the end of Gonzaga’s NCAA tournament hopes.

Entering Saturday, the Zags had an RPI in the mid-60s, enough to keep them in the bubble conversation but not enough to make them anything more than a team that will be projected to end up on the cut-line.

The issue is a complete lack of quality wins on their résumé. Gonzaga beat UConn in the Bahamas. That’s a borderline top 50 win. They beat Washington, another borderline top 50 win. Beyond that? They swept Pepperdine, beat Tennessee and own a win over Montana. None of those are top 100 wins, and that’s why the SMU game was such a big deal. The Mustangs are a top 25 team. This was a road game. This win was the kind of thing that the Zags could pin at the top of their profile.

But Wiltjer didn’t show up, the Zags had no answer for Moore and they’ll head back to Spokane needing, in all likelihood, to win the WCC’s automatic bid if they want to dance.

POSTERIZED: Cal’s Jaylen Brown has his dunk contest entry

California's Jaylen Brown lays up a shot against Oregon State in the second half of an NCAA college basketball game Saturday, Feb. 13, 2016, in Berkeley, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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Cal picked up a big win over Oregon State in Haas Pavilion on Saturday night, and the exclamation point was this emphatic dunk from Jaylen Brown: