Monday, May 3, 2010

Rice to Rutgers

According to and the Asbury (N.J.) Park Press, Robert Morris basketball coach Mike Rice, pictured, has been hired by Rutgers to replace Fred Hill.

A press conference will be held later this week to announce the hiring.

From the Asbury Park Press:

Rice's body of work includes stints as an assistant at Marquette, St. Joseph and Pittsburgh and an impressive three-year reign at Robert Morris, which went 73-30 and made two NCAA Tournament appearances under his direction. Rarely, however, has a head man made the leap from the low-major Northeast Conference directly to the Big East. The last was Kevin Bannon, who went from Rider to Rutgers in 1997 and flamed out four years later.

The news closes a two-week search and a bizarre month-long transition from the time athletics director Tim Pernetti told then-coach Fred Hill he would not be back for the 2010-2011 season.

After Hill's $850,000 buyout was finalized April 19, the search played out like a Survivor season. Two of the coaches Rutgers looked at, Scarlet Knights legend Eddie Jordan and Dayton skipper Brian Gregory, publicly declared their non-interest. A courtship of Temple's Fran Dunphy, who was believed to be Pernetti's top target, proved fruitless. Deposed Boston College coach Al Skinner was interviewed after Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski called to recommend him, but he did not gain much traction.

That left Rice and former St. John's coach and ESPN analyst Fran Fraschilla. Multiple sources with knowledge of the process said Fraschilla wanted assurances about renovations to the aging Louis Brown Athletic Center and the addition of a practice facility, and that might have affected his candidacy.

In the end Rice was the one candidate who wanted the job badly — and he got it.

A 1991 graduate of Fordham, where he played guard, Rice has won praise within the coaching fraternity for his assistantships at Fordham (1991-94), Marquette (1994-97), Niagara (1997-98), Chicago State (1998-2001), St. Joseph's (2004-06) and Pittsburgh (2006-07). He also made numerous New Jersey connections among key high school and AAU coaches as director of the Neptune-based Hoop Group's prestigious Eastern Invitational Basketball Camp from 2001-04.

Those connections reportedly rang Pernetti's phone off the hook with recommendations for Rice. Of course, many of those same people firmly backed Fred Hill when he was hired — and stuck with him throughout much of his failed tenure.

There is no doubt that Rice has good basketball bloodlines. His dad, Mike Rice Sr., served as head coach at Duquesne and Youngstown State and posted winning records at both places before moving on to a successful broadcasting career. He currently is the television color commentator for the Portland Trailbazers.


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