Friday, April 5, 2013

Two current Rutgers players defend fired head coach Mike Rice


Newly fired Rutgers basketball coach Mike Rice has become public enemy number one after a video showing him berating players went viral.

But not everyone believes Rice is a villain figure. No, two of Rice's ex-players have come to his aid in support of their embattled coach.

"You can't let those individual moments define what he was," Rutgers junior forward Wally Judge told the AP on Thursday. "In my past two years, me being an older guy and being under other coaches, I have grown from the moment I stepped in these doors, not only as a player but also as a person because of how he has treated me. ... Honestly, a lot of the things that have been seen have been taken out of context. A lot of things that aren't seen are when we grab him and kid around. Like I said before, when people ask me why did I play for him, I told them, 'He's a players' coach.'

"Mike was almost like a big brother. He would get on the floor with us and go through drills with us. He made it fun. When you have a big brother type of figure, you know you can play around like that. I have grabbed Mike and put him in a headlock and we joke around and kid. That was the type of relationship he built with his players."

Scarlet Knights sophomore Austin Johnson agrees with Judge's sentiments.

"He did a lot for us off the court, academically, socially. I have to say I enjoyed my time, even it was an emotional rollercoaster," Johnson told the AP. "I feel if people had a chance to see the other portions of practice, or had been at practice, their judgment would not be as severe. I am not saying what he did wasn't wrong, because I do believe it was wrong. But it is also tough because it was a highlight reel of his worst moments."

Judge said the team learned to seperate what happened on the court during practice from real life.

"After practice, we would all go in the locker room and laugh. It was never a sad face or a hung head. What he did was he separated the court and he separated life. When we were on the court, we were on the court and locked in. That's why you see so many intense moments because he was so locked in on turning this program around. When we got in the locker room, we were a family. We laughed."

Rice took over the Rutgers program before the 2010-11 season and compiled a 44-51 overall record in three seasons.

Before Rutgers, Rice served as the head coach at Robert Morris where he posted a 73-31 mark and led the Patriots to a first place finish in the Northeast Conference in each year.

Rice played his collegiate basketball career at Fordham University.

Via USA TODAY

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