May 26, 2019 | 78° F

Rice speaks after termination

Photo by The Daily Targum |

Former Rutgers head coach Mike Rice, who was fired this spring after practice footage showed him throwing basketballs and using curse words during practices, said he never abused players.

After Rutgers men’s basketball practice yesterday, head coach Eddie Jordan dismissed a question of whether Mike Rice appearing in two interviews released yesterday was a distraction to his team.

“No reaction from me. None,” Jordan said.

Rice, the Scarlet Knights’ former head coach, made his first two public interviews yesterday since April, according to The Star-Ledger.

Rice, who was at the center of a player abuse scandal, sat down with anchor Robin Roberts of ABC’s “20/20” and claimed he learned from his mistakes.

“I won’t be perfect moving forward, but I’ve changed,” Rice said in an excerpt of the interview. “Having that taken away, your dream job ... and having it done in such a visible way ... and hurting the people closest to me ... it changes a person.”

Rice also spoke with journalist Jonathan Mahler for a story released yesterday for The New York Times Magazine.

In that piece, Rice said he never abused his former players.

“Everything I’ve ever done is fight, scratch and claw, and now I have to sit back and take it, listen to people say I was abusing my players? I was an idiot, but I never abused anybody,” Rice said.

Rice told Roberts he is empathetic for his use of homophobic slurs, according to ABC News.

“I wasn’t thinking that I was shouting at Tyler Clementi, or anybody else who was a gay or a lesbian,” Rice said in the interview.

Rice since apologized to all of his former players after his firing.

Junior guard Myles Mack, who played two seasons for Rice, had no idea about the two articles when asked about it yesterday post-practice.

“I don’t really know anything about it,” Mack said. “I don’t have a reaction to that.”

In the piece, Rice said he attempted to reach out to Mack and the rest of the players he may have affected negatively during his Rutgers tenure.

“You know, whether it was texting, whether it was calling, whether it was, handwritten letters, whether it’s email, they don’t deserve this and especially the first year’s team,” he said in the interview. “Even though we were out-manned every single night, they really, really fought hard for me.”

Rice is working with The Hoop Group, a youth basketball organization, where he runs clinics for third-to-sixth graders, according to The New York Times Magazine interview.

After his termination, Rice denied interview requests and remained out of the public eye. According to The Star-Ledger, Rice spent more than a month with former NBA player John Lucas in Houston, Texas. Lucas runs a counseling center in Houston for former athletes and coaches.

Rice compiled a 44-51 record in three seasons with the Knights, failing to deliver an NCAA Tournament appearance for Rutgers since the school made the 1991 tournament.

By Greg Johnson & Bradly Derechailo

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