April 4th, 2013 01:30 PM║ Posted By: John Pennington ║ Permalink
║ Schools: Alabama, Arkansas, Auburn, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, Missouri, Ole Miss, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Vanderbilt
Tags: Ed Berliner, ESPN, Mike Rice, Penn State, Robert Barchi, Twitter Coaching
Ex-Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice did some very bad things. He shoved his players during practice. He was verbally abusive towards them, even using homophobic slurs (not that he’s the first coach to do that). Worse, he actually threw basketballs at them.
Mike Rice deserved to be fired. End of story.
But it’s not the end of the story. Rice is being obliterated in the national media. ESPN’s numerous talking heads have jumped in to trash Rice. Except for Bobby Knight, of course, who was conspicuously absent from the network’s pound-it-into-the-ground coverage on its 6pm ET “SportsCenter” broadcast yesterday.
You remember Knight. He was the guy who threw chairs, verbally abused players, and finally lost his job at Indiana after he laid hands upon one of his Hoosier players and — like Rice — was caught doing so on videotape. He’s also the guy who now serves as a top basketball analyst for ESPN and who fellow analyst Dick Vitale raves about.
Vitale got in on the Rice story yesterday via Twitter:
Coaching suicide, eh? Must depend on how many games a guy’s won. Knight lasted a long time before a video clip brought him down. It can be argued that Rice’s taped incidents were worse than the biggie caught on tape involving Knight, but at that point we’re just splitting hairs.
Knight was a bully to his players. Rice was a bully to his players. Not all of their players hated them. Some came to Knight’s defense. Some have come to Rice’s. It’s not unlike the Marine who hates his drill sergeant only to later say he appreciates him for “making a man out of him,” or some other such macho thing. (Perhaps there’s a little bit of Stockholm Syndrome mixed in there, too.)
In Knight’s case, he had hundreds of wins and three national championships on his resume. Rice had only been a head coach for six years. He took Robert Morris to a pair of NCAA Tournaments, but in three years at Rutgers he was a disappointing 44-51 overall. Winning masks a lot of ills. Losing magnifies them.
Knight also coached — mainly — in an age before Twitter and wall-to-wall sports coverage across television networks and the internet. Rice screwed up and got caught in the age of social media. Once ESPN aired video of him flinging balls at this players’ noggins, he was doomed.
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