Men's Basketball: Johnson defends former head coach

With former Rutgers men’s head basketball coach Mike Rice, Athletic Director Tim Pernetti and University President Robert Barchi all prevalent throughout the media yesterday, it was the players that endured Rice’s physical and verbal abuse that the public wanted to hear from.

Former Scarlet Knights Tyree Graham and Jonathan Mitchell weighed in throughout yesterday, but one interview that stood out was from Austin Johnson.

Johnson, who played from the first time Rice took over the program in 2010 to now, told he “never felt threatened” by Rice.

“We’re grown men,” Johnson told the Star Ledger yesterday. “We’re 6-foot-8, 250-some-odd pounds. If we ever felt threatened, we could’ve been physical.”

Johnson was also around during Rutgers’ coaching change — which came about from behavior issues as well.

Pernetti fired former head coach Fred Hill, Jr. in the offseason of 2010 by Pernetti after his actions during a Rutgers baseball game against Pittsburgh.

Johnson is used to controversy surrounding his team, but the firing of Rice yesterday came as a surprise to the former forward who though the issue was dealt with back in November.

“Honestly, it just went from zero to 60 so fast,” he said. “During the season, after the suspension, I thought it was done with. I was shocked to see the allegations or whatever were coming back out. It was so crazy how it happened and how quickly it escalated.”

Though Johnson said that Rice would sometimes throw basketballs at players when he was upset, he also said the video does not serve the situation full justice.

“When you look at the video and you see him throwing the ball and you see him cursing — I know that’s wrong,” Johnson said. “I know that’s not what you’re supposed to do. But I’m not going to sit here and act like this is the only program that it’s happened at.”

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