If you are unfamiliar with the circumstances surrounding Mike Rice, watch this video first: Coach Misconduct at Rutgers
Mike Rice is continuing to insist he's innocent: "I never abused anybody"
I contemplated writing this open letter to you about 10 different times. Ultimately, I decided to do it because what I believe you did was terribly wrong.
It makes me sick to watch the video. I've played basketball my whole life, and have had horrible, abusive coaches, as well as helpful, supportive coaches. I watched the video of your practices one time, but couldn't watch it again for it brought back bad memories. Now, Mr. Rice, you're trying to justify your actions and say that you never abused anybody.
We as athletes have been conditioned to deal with tough coaches. We're used to the cursing, the screaming, and the passion they have for us that could be considered verbal abuse. But it's okay, because we know they have the best of intentions for us. We've realized that when a coach isn't screaming, cursing, and getting on us, that's when there's a problem.
But what you did crossed the line. Think about the young player coming into practice, ready to work his butt off for you and the team. He believes, and is ready to do anything you say. He starts running through drills, and boom, he gets a basketball thrown at his head. What does he do at this point? Is that his fault? What message are you trying to send? The next play down, he is ready for a pass, and you kick him in the back. Later, you shove him with two hands in front of his teammates, making him look like a fool.
What are these players supposed to think? If you watch the video, they don't do anything. They just put their heads down and continue the drill, like they didn't just get physically abused by their own coach they work so hard for. You've been doing it all along, and only until Eric Murdock stepped up and showed video footage did anything change.
You're in the news trying to clear your name and say that you're not a monster. Unfortunately for you, millions of people saw the footage, and millions of people know the truth. There is a high level of restraint those players must have had dealing with you. You can kick, push, and throw basketballs at them all you want, but what if one of them retaliated and pushed you back? You would have kicked them off the team, and everything they were working for would be gone in an instant. And of course they would be blamed as having a "bad attitude" or "emotional problems," even though they were being verbally, mentally, and physically abused every single day they stepped into practice.
I bet the parents of those players would love to find you walking down a dark alley somewhere. Obviously, they can't legally abuse you, but if they were your coach, would they have every right to? Would they be able to abuse you for years, under the mask of "getting you ready for the game"?
What do your kids think? Have they asked you yet, "Daddy, are you going to do that to me when I get older?" It's a legitimate question. On the surface, you will say, obviously, no. But what if you do coach them when they get older? What if they make the wrong 'V' cut, or don't find the open man quick enough? Are you going to run from the opposite baseline with full force, and push them in the back like you did to your loyal players? If any other parents tell you to calm down, are you going to quickly retort, "Don't tell me how to raise my children!" From what I've seen, I would say that you will do all of these things.
You're a bully, Mr. Rice, and the worst kind of bully there is. Once a bully, always a bully. You probably had some traumatic experiences growing up, being small, skinny, and white, and now that you have a little power and authority, you're taking it out on the type of person who pushed you around when you were little. That's what happens.
These kids had a great opportunity at Rutgers, and they wouldn't do anything to jeopardize that. But you made it extremely rough on them. What were they to do? Speak up? You and the coaching staff would just say they're not "mentally tough", and that they can't handle college basketball. They absolutely can handle college basketball, they just can't handle a pathetic bully for a coach with too much power.
I'm writing this because I want players to know they have somewhere to go. When they deal with abusive coaches, I want them to know that they can and should stand up for themselves. Unfortunately, those players had to deal with you for 2 years before anything was done.
You did abuse those players, no matter how much you say that you cared about them. You crossed the line in a big way, and I hope you have to experience this hard truth for a long, long time.
So where do we go from here? It's easy to call you a monster, and say you should never coach again. I believe you should never coach again, yet I also believe in second, third and fourth chances. I believe you need some serious therapy, something that you should pay out of your pocket for. Therapy gets a bad reputation, but in reality it's extremely healthy. You probably don't even know why you abused those players like you did, and talking to a professional will help get to the root of the issue, whatever that may be.
Mr. Rice, what you did was terrible, but we can't change history. What you can do is admit your wrongdoing, and grow from these experiences. You made some horrible mistakes, but the future is there to rectify those mistakes.
Get the help you need, and be sure that nothing like this happens ever again.
I'm rooting for you.
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