Wednesday, April 3, 2013
3-point shot: Why did Rutgers keep Rice?
By Andy Katz
1. Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti's decision to keep Mike Rice even after the coach's suspension and $50,000 fine made no sense. The two years remaining on Rice's contract -- with one year in the soon-to-be-named conference before entering the Big Ten in 2014 -- was another sign. No one within the industry expected Rice to be coaching in the Big Ten. So the question that remains unanswered is why did Pernetti keep Rice on when the inevitable was going to happen in a year? The release of the tapes by ESPN's "Outside the Lines" showed that the decision to simply suspend and fine was a mistake. Now Rice has no shot to coach in the Big Ten, or to recruit for next season. Rutgers will have to cut him loose -- and can do so for cause. When this happens, because it's incredibly difficult to see this being an "if" scenario, Rutgers must look to someone who either has strong ties to the university (like Eddie Jordan), has a clean image and/or can coach at the highest level in the Big Ten (like Jay Wright or Al Skinner). There are others out there, but Rutgers will need to find someone who has high character and can regain the respect the program needs before it enters the Big Ten. One side note: I remember talking to Rice when he came back from the suspension and he said he was going to change the way he delivered his message -- though not the intensity of how he would express himself. But it was clearly too late, since these videos had already been recorded.
2. Former UCLA coach Ben Howland would seem to be another possible candidate for Rutgers. But it's unclear what Howland will do. He said Tuesday that he will sit the year out, attend practices, get healthier and then come back. Howland will be in demand. He went to three Final Fours. He coached the Bruins to the regular-season Pac-12 title. Tubby Smith was able to land at Texas Tech within 10 days of being fired at Minnesota.
3. New Mexico should be applauded for hiring Craig Neal to replace Steve Alford. This wasn't a rushed decision. AD Paul Krebs had plenty of time to evaluate Neal as he coached with Alford the past six seasons. Neal is ready for this challenge. The pool of coaches who would actually leave their current situations isn't strong right now. Neal has bought into the New Mexico program, and it was crucial to keep the momentum going from the past four seasons. The Lobos couldn't afford to find themselves in startup mode again.